Kelly Lamrock is attacking New Brunswickers on certified disability with his changes in delivering their yearly supplement, according to the Common Front for Social Justice.
“Once again, this government is attacking one of our most vulnerable citizens. People with disabilities and depending on social assistance are in the category receiving the lowest basic income in all of Canada,” says Linda McCaustlin, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.
The provincial government had a program which gave people with disabilities and depending on social assistance a yearly supplement of $1,000. Minister Lamrock wants to divide this amount in twelve and include it in monthly cheques.
The main reason why the Common Front for Social Justice opposes this change in delivery in payment is because it may involve a rent increase. The inclusion of a one-twelfth additional amount ($83.33) in the regular monthly cheque could provoke a rent increase for those in subsidized housing. In the past, each time, there was an increase in social assistance cheques, there was an increase in rent. Those in subsidized housing are paying 30% of their revenue. If the proposed changes occur, these people could in effect lose one third of their annual supplement ( $300 from the $1,000).
A number of people receiving this $1,000 supplement are using it to pay off accumulated debts and to purchase basic necessities such as a wheelchair.
The sudden decision to change the method of delivery of the supplement goes against the philosophy of the N.B. Poverty Reduction Plan, which professed to be as helpful as possible toward people living on limited means such as those with disabilities. These are vulnerable citizens and moreover, they are receiving the lowest total income in their category throughout Canada.
In 2007, New Brunswickers with disabilities received a basic social assistance annual rate of $7,038 plus an additional yearly $1,000 in social assistance benefits as well as a $237 Federal GST Credit; this gave them a total annual income of $8,275. In the Atlantic region in 2007, the same category of people in Newfoundland and Labrador were receiving $10,878, in PEI, $8,623, and in NS, $9,088. In 2007, disabled New Brunswickers had an annual income of only $8,275 while the before-tax Low Income Cut-off from Statistics Canada was $18,659. There has been very little changes in these rates since 2007.
“This government has praised the N.B. Poverty Reduction Plan as a model for the rest of Canada. Instead of helping people living in poverty, they are putting them down. We just have to remember that it is this same government which reneged on its last electoral promise of increasing the basic social assistance rates to the Atlantic average. In the last couple of years, they also failed to give a 2% increase in social assistance rates to offset the rate of inflation,” stated McCaustlin.