To create equity in the system the Province is investing $170 million over the next three years to ensure about 100,000 people on disability assistance in B.C. will receive a rate increase of up to $77 a month as of Sept. 1, 2016.
Included in this, the B.C. government is also providing people on disability assistance with more choice in how they receive transportation supports.
Currently, around half of the people with the Person with Disabilities (PWD) designation receive either a subsidized BC Bus Pass at a cost to the ministry of $52 a month, or a special transportation subsidy equivalent to $66 a month. The rest, particularly those living in smaller communities, receive no transportation support at all.
There is an inequity in the current system, and this change will bring fairness to the ministry’s transportation supports.
Once the changes are in effect, all people with the PWD designation will receive up to $77 cash per month, and they can decide how to spend it – they can purchase a subsidized bus pass – or use it for something else.
People on disability assistance can still access a subsidized bus pass through the ministry for $52 per month plus the annual $45 administration fee. However, in some communities, a bus pass costs less than that, and people may be better off purchasing a pass directly from BC Transit.
There are other initiatives in Budget 2016 that will help low-income families. The senior’s $1,000 Home Renovation Tax Credit has been extended to people with a disability. And with changes to MSP, an additional 335,000 people will see their premiums reduced, including 70,000 single parent families – and an additional 45,000 people will no longer pay MSP premiums at all.
The increase in disability assistance rates and the increased flexibility in transportation options build on Accessibility 2024 – government’s ongoing commitment to make B.C. the most progressive jurisdiction in Canada for people with disabilities.
The rate increase also builds on a number of significant changes government has made to help people on income and disability assistance.
In 2015, government increased asset limits for people receiving disability assistance from $5,000 to $100,000 for individuals, and from $10,000 to $200,000 for couples.
People receiving disability assistance can also receive unlimited cash gifts with no impact on their assistance as long as it is within the asset limit.
B.C. was the first province to annualize earnings exemptions for people with disabilities, whose ability to work may fluctuate. They can now earn up to $9,600 per year.
The Single Parent Employment Initiative was launched in September 2015, giving single parents on income or disability assistance the supports they need to overcome barriers to employment and build a better future for their families. Nearly 2,000 single parents are taking part in the initiative.
Child-support payments are now fully exempt for 3,200 families on income and disability assistance – and monthly income exemptions have doubled from $200 to $400 a month for families with children, and increased from $300 to $500 a month for families who have a child with a disability.
Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –
“We know that people with disabilities face extra challenges in their daily lives. That’s why I'm pleased to see that in Budget 2016 we are able to provide an increase in our rates for people with disabilities while creating equity in our system of transportation supports. This increase also allows people to make their own choice on how to meet their transportation needs.”
- People on disability assistance also receive free Pharmacare, premium-free MSP, medical equipment and supplies, and annualized earnings exemptions.
- B.C. is the only province to offer a subsidized bus pass to low-income seniors and persons with disabilities. About 90,000 people receive a B.C. Bus Pass each year, at a cost to government of about $50 million.
- There is no change to the BC Bus Pass Program for low-income seniors. The ministry will continue to provide a subsidized pass to eligible seniors for the annual $45 administration fee.
- Budget 2016 provides the ministry with an overall increase of $456 million over three years to address caseload pressure, increase disability assistance rates and other supplementary benefits, and provide more funds to Community Living B.C.
To find out more about Accessibility 2024: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/accessibility/accessibility-2024
For more on the Single Parent Employment Initiative: http://www.sdsi.gov.bc.ca/programs/spei.html