People who are unable to work due to a disability, receive seniors benefits or who are on income support will for the first time have their payments indexed to the cost of living, if a new bill is passed in the Alberta legislature.
Bill 26, introduced Thursday by Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir, also increases the monthly amounts paid to recipients of Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), the Alberta Seniors Benefit and Income Support on Jan. 1.
If the legislation is passed, a single person on AISH would see their monthly benefit increase from $1,588 to $1,685. A single person with two children would receive $1,985 a month, up from the current amount of $1,788.
The move would mark the first increase to AISH payments since 2012.
Premier Rachel Notley said her government wanted to bring in indexing when the NDP took office in 2015 but a drop in oil prices forced a delay in the measure.
Enshrining indexing in legislation means recipients can count on it, Notley said.
“Now that it’s in the legislation, it would be much, much more difficult to be one of those discretionary things that doesn’t happen,” she said. “It will happen.”
The proposed legislation would also allow recipients of AISH and income support to have more assets without facing clawbacks. People would be allowed to have $5,000 in assets — $2,000 more than before.
Under income support, a single person under the “expected to work ” category would see their benefits increase from $627 to $745 a month.
For people in the Barriers to Full-time Employment program, the monthly payments would go from $809 to $866. Recipients classified as Learners under the income support program would see their benefits increase by $19 to $866 a month.
The Alberta Seniors Benefit is proposed to go up to $286, a $6 increase each month.
If passed, the initiative would cost the government $46 million for the remainder of the 2018-19 fiscal year and $194 million in 2019-20.
Three other Canadian jurisdictions — Yukon, Manitoba and Quebec — index their disability and income support payments to inflation.
Yukon is the only Canadian jurisdiction to index seniors’ benefits.