Posted on Apr 6, 2020


EDMONTON – Jason Kenney and the UCP should follow British Columbia’s lead and provide additional support to vulnerable Albertans struggling during the pandemic, says the Alberta NDP Official Opposition.


Last week, the Government of British Columbia announced it would provide a monthly $300 supplement to those receiving assistance and disability payments who are not eligible for the federal programs to “ensure they do not fall deeper into poverty as a result of COVID-19.”


Albertans on income support or receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped do not qualify for the Government of Alberta’s Emergency Isolation Support and Minister for Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney has repeatedly refused calls to expand the program and help these Albertans. 


“During times of emergency and crisis it is always the most vulnerable Albertans who are in the greatest danger,” said NDP Community and Social Services Critic Marie Renaud. “These Albertans are at high-risk and they have no choice but to self-isolate. If the province won’t provide emergency support payments, Jason Kenney should at least take a page out of B.C.’s book, step up, and provide some extra help.”


Many Albertans on AISH or income support also work part-time to help make ends meet. These Albertans have also lost wages or been laid-off due to COVID-19, meaning they will have to apply for employment insurance and the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). However, any federal support they receive is automatically deducted from their monthly provincial assistance.


In B.C., however, the government announced it would temporarily exempt federal benefits from being counted as income, allowing people receiving income and disability assistance to also benefit from federal support programs without any reductions to their monthly assistance payments.


“These Albertans are already trying to get by on poverty-level incomes. It is not fair to have their support clawed back when they are experiencing the same hardship as so many other people struggling with this crisis. Again, Jason Kenney needs to follow B.C.’s lead and ensure there is no clawback,” said Renaud.


Tarah Patterson, 43, is an AISH recipient who works part-time at the Grande Prairie Goodwill Thrift Store & Donation Centre to supplement her benefits. She was laid off due to COVID-19. Tarah was diagnosed with Asperger’s and Tourette's Syndrome when she was 21, and has been on AISH for over 20 years. 


“I have spent my whole life struggling with social anxiety and depression because of my disorder,” Tarah said. “It’s hard right now. Being isolated and on limited funds has made my depression worse, isolated all the time. I feel like I’m being left behind. I would love for Jason Kenney to do what B.C. is doing as well so I can apply for federal programs. It would mean a lot to me because I could have more wiggle room and I don’t have to stress out as much over every little.”


Albertans on income support receive $900 a month. Albertans on AISH receive $1,685 a month.