April 10, 2020
News Release: Albertans on income supports cannot keep up and are at risk
Many Albertans on income supports are afraid to speak out about how much the monthly payment date change has affected them. The payment date change to the first of the month alone has been costing people more to live as people continue to get NSF charges despite their efforts to do what the government suggests to rearrange their finances. For instance, people are being charged NSF fees at around $45 each.
The Disability Action Hall is a group of people with disabilities and their allies. One of our members has had three NSF charges since the Alberta Government changed the payment dates for AISH and Income Supports. They also told us that because they were about to get a fourth NSF charge, they went to get a payday loan last month.
“I took out a cash loan last month just to pay [for] medical supplies. They might charge interest. I am still waiting to find out. I learned I will be now charged another $45 tomorrow (April 3rd) and I would be overdrawn. The bank offered me overdraft protection for $5 a month, but I would rather spend $5 on personal items like shampoo or toothpaste.”
The coronavirus crisis is not helping any. It is leaving people isolated without being able to afford food. A person told us how they have maxed out the credit/debit card with delivery charges while another member says they have trouble getting a credit card to try to make ends meet. There are over 137,000 people on AISH or Alberta works, and even if someone may have COVID-19, they may have no choice but to leave home and put themselves and other Albertans at risk. Dependence on charity is not enough to help all 137,000 Albertans in need.
“Not everybody can get a credit card – it’s difficult to get one at all if you’re low-income. A friend of mine has one, but they have low limits, and they’re maxed out. Many places do not take cash. It feels like we are at the back of the line. People are being left behind.”
“The limit on a visa debit card is only $100. It is not very much. We (elderly parents and I) can no longer order groceries and we are too medically complicated to leave the house. Calling the foodbank? Those hampers are gone. You have to keep calling and calling to try to get through.”
We also learned of a friend who lost a part-time job as a result of COVID-19. They found out that if they applied for EI or the federal relief (CERB) available to others, the money would be clawed back dollar-for-dollar from AISH. The rules as to how often a person can access emergency supports from Income Supports like AISH are also unclear.
“When I called my AISH worker and told them [about my situation], they were of little help other than telling me to ’wait and see.’ How helpful is that?”
The members of the Disability Action Hall are hopeful the government will do the least harm and reverse the payment date.
Who: Members of the Disability Action Hall
Why: To reverse the date of payment of income supports