February 21st, 2020

Confusion follows AISH date change

By JEREMY APPEL on February 1, 2020.

jappel@medicinehatnews.com@MHNJeremyAppel

Sandra Williams is responsible for managing the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped payments her grandson, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, receives to pay for rent.

She was caught off guard by the government’s decision to move AISH payments to the first day of the month starting in March, or the last business day of the previous month if the first falls on a weekend or holiday, rather than four days prior to the first.

“Pension checks are always X number of days before the end of the month, because that’s how a person needs it – before everything is due. So if it’s worked that way all these years for pensioners, why all of a sudden would it be different for AISH,” asked Williams, herself a pensioner.

Pensions are under federal jurisdiction, while AISH is provincial, but the inconsistency remains.

The first payment will be the hardest, since it’s coming almost a week later than usual.

“I’ll admit I did vote Conservative, but I’m shocked by all these little changes that are coming out,” Williams said, referring as well to changes to senior benefits that mean her two grandchildren whom she’s the legal guardian of are no longer covered.

The government also cut AISH payments by de-indexing them from inflation in its October 2019 budget.

Medicine Hat College political analyst Jim Groom says he suspects changes to AISH are rooted in a perception that welfare recipients are fiscally irresponsible.

“It may come down to a control issue, where they think that people on AISH have three days to abuse the money, rather than make the payments,” Groom speculated. “I don’t see it as a huge benefit to the government financially and yet it does speak detrimentally to their compassion and empathy for people.

“I don’t think that’s going to hold them in good stead, so I’m a little confused about why they’re bothering to do it.”

Regardless of its intent, he said this move will make life more difficult for already-vulnerable people, who have “incremental expenses” that are always adding up, whether it’s housing or transportation.

Groom contrasted this hamfistedness with the government’s generosity in offering a $4.5 billion corporate tax cut when it came into office.

More local AISH issues

Linda Martin, a landlord for a building on Southview Drive with two tenants whose AISH cheques are mailed directly to her for rent, says the change in payment schedule is a needless complication.

Under the new system, mailed cheques and direct deposits go out on the same day, so Martin won’t receive those cheques until a few days after rent is due.

She intends on waiving any late fees, since it’s beyond her tenants’ control, but says the government is creating an unnecessary inconvenience for everyone involved.

“I’ve got to make two separate trips to the bank and two separate trips to the office,” said Martin. “It’s costing me time and money, because the government decided to change the time when they’re going to send out these cheques.”

She says she doesn’t believe changing the payment schedule will alter anybody’s behaviour.

“If they’re going to waste their money, they’re going to waste their money, or they’re going to pay their bills regardless if they get it two or three days before the first or if they get it on the first,” said Martin. “I don’t think it’s going to change how people use their money.”

Crystal Gebhardt is on AISH for her severe attention deficit disorder and depression, which she said helps her with groceries and rent.

“It’s impacted a lot of people, because with the previous scheduled date they had more leeway to get their cheques before the first,” she said.

Gebhardt uses direct deposit, so she had more flexibility to decide what to spend her AISH money on while ensuring her bills were paid on time in conjunction with her other sources of income.

The combination of delayed payments with de-indexing produces a noxious combination, she suggested.

“We’re going to find more people who are homeless,” said Gebhardt. “You’re barely making it by as it is.”

Barnes speaks out

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes says many of his constituents on AISH have expressed their concerns with the changes to him.

“I don’t understand the government’s logic for changing the date,” Barnes told the News, emphasizing the livelihoods of people on AISH are “crucial.”

With regards to de-indexing, he said it was done across the board.

“Taxpayers have lost their protection as inflation affects tax brackets, and that’s a sign of the government saying that those who pay and those who receive are going to have to work close together to ensure we bring back the Alberta advantage,” Barnes said, referring to “a strong economy with low taxes and the best social programs.”

Ministry of Community and Social Services spokesperson Diane Carter said the schedule change will have no bearing on the amount of money people on AISH receive.

“We acknowledge some clients may need to make adjustments to the timing of bill payments and we are providing clients with notice and assistance now, in advance, so they can prepare for the change in March,” she said in an emailed statement. “We are encouraging Albertans with questions or concerns to call their caseworker or Alberta Supports for assistance.”

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3 Responses to “Confusion follows AISH date change”

  1. Les Landry says:

    The UCP said This policy change was to put AISH on a more dependable and predictable pay structure. We already had a dependable and predictable pay structure and it was the fourth last business day before the end of the month. The only exception to it being the fourth date was December and January benefits were being issued a week before Christmas so people with children could have a Christmas. This did create some problems for some people, and the saving grace was the GST would be issued in the beginning of January. So this move by the UCP is very cruel and heartless towards the families of people with disabilities.

    The dates for issuing the payments four days before the end of the month have been in place since AISH and income support has been in place. And the reason that was for people to be able to pay their bills on time.

    I will admit there is some abuse by some people but that is more on income support than on AISH. And the people abusing the system is a very small percentage that is not any justification for this move.

    I am surprised political analyst Jim Groom didn’t figure out the real reason this government created all this chaos.

    This change has nothing to do with AISH and everything to do with Kenney being afraid of another credit downgrade. So the UCP deferred Aprils benefit payments to April 1st after the fiscal year that ends at the end of March and it will reduce the deficit for one year.

    So once again the UCP has used people with disabilities. And in the world of the UCP, we are not worthy of any consideration or understanding. Once again we are just the little black-eyed peas in another one of their political shell games.

    And I’ll end with if either of our local MLAs wants to refute this. I would like to see them offer a real justified and believable reason for creating this mess. Because I am in the world that they messed up with all my bills being three business days before the end of the month. And I set it up like that because we used to have a dependable and predictable pay structure.

    This abuse from the UCP towards people with disabilities must stop.

    Remember, any government ceases to be civilized when it perverts its authority to abuse the people it is elected to serve.

  2. […] upset about lack of consultation on payment-date changes by Michelle Bellefontaine for CBC News; Confusion follows AISH date change by Jeremy Appel in the Medicine Hat News; Changed date for disability payments frustrates resident […]

  3. […] Read Edmonton Journal’s article about  how support payment changes in Alberta could hurt some recipients more than others here, CBC’s article about how the change in  AISH payment dates could create lineups for low income bus passes here, Global News’ story here, Medicine Hat News’ article here. […]


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