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Alberta is asking the federal government to adjust the income requirement for its one-time rent top up benefit, saying the current limit makes tens of thousands of Albertans with disabilities ineligible.

The government of Canada opened applications Monday for the one-time $500 payment as part of the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) program — to help low-income renters as rent rates soar across the country.

To qualify, renting families must have a net income of less than $35,000 a year, or renting individuals must make less than $20,000, according to a government statement on its website.

Applicants must also spend at least 30 per cent of their adjusted net income on shelter in order to qualify for the $500 benefit.

Global News heard from several individuals receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) supports, saying because they got slightly more than $20,000 a year they were denied this federal benefit.  However, they all said they paid much more than 30 per cent of their income on rent — one person said they spend 73 per cent of their monthly income on shelter.

On Wednesday, Alberta’s minister of seniors, community and social services sent a letter to the federal minister of families, children and social development and the federal minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, asking them to adjust the criteria.

“Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) currently provides $1,685 per month, which is soon to be increased as of Jan. 1, 2023,” Jeremy Nixon wrote.

“Alberta has one of the highest disability payments across Canada, but it would seem the federal government believes that it is too high.

“For tens of thousands of Albertans on AISH, they are receiving $20,220, making them ineligible for the benefit,” he said. “We are taking this opportunity to ask the government of Canada to raise the $20,000 threshold to allow Albertans living with disabilities access to this benefit.

“This inflationary crisis is hurting millions of Albertans, and they need help. It is important that those living with disabilities are not left out.”

Global News previously reached out to the federal government for comment and the office of the federal minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion and CMHC provided a joint response.

“This measure is a top-up to the already existing CHB, which includes the Canada-Alberta Housing Benefit. This federally-led, and jointly funded program is administered directly to Albertans in need of rental assistance, based on low incomes determined through criteria available on the government of Alberta’s website.”

The statement stressed the measures are not standalone programs and the federal government will keep adding support through the National Housing Strategy.

“These programs are helping support the most vulnerable communities, including persons with disabilities across Alberta and across Canada. Many of these housing initiatives through the NHS involve important and mandatory accessibility criteria, in order to ensure inclusive wrap-around supports are provided for those who continue to face serious barriers in this country.”

“The government of Canada has also reintroduced the framework legislation to create the historic Canada Disability Benefit, an income supplement for working-age Canadians with disabilities.

“The government of Canada will continue to work with those expressing important concerns to ensure our programs can be best tailored to support the needs of Albertans and Canadians who need it most.”

Kaeleigh Kaufman, 60, was one of the Albertans on AISH who applied for the $500 on Monday and had her application denied.

“If (people on AISH) knew about this one-time top up — $500! — and then they discovered they were $300 over? Now they know what a sucker punch feels like,” she said.

“All severely and permanently disabled Albertans who rely solely on AISH should have the exact same net annual income as I do … That means that all permanently and severely disabled individuals, citizens in Alberta were denied the $500 one-time rent top up.

“I’m not saying it’s a case of overt discrimination; I’m saying it’s gross oversight,” Kaufman said. “I don’t think they did their homework.”

She said people on fixed incomes often have to choose between shelter and food or paying rent and buying medicine.

“That $500, if it were to come to me today, it would go to restore shortfalls and pay debts to pay basic necessities.”


Story by: Global News