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Low-income Albertans and Disability Workers get Boost in 2012 Budget

Published Thursday, February 9, 2012 5:00 am

The province’s poorest citizens, low-income families and workers who help Albertans with disabilities have all won significant boosts in the coming year’s provincial budget.

As was promised by Premier Alison Redford in the Tory leadership campaign last year, the 46,000 Albertans who rely on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program will receive a monthly increase of $400, or 34 per cent, beginning April 1.

With their new maximum monthly cheque of $1,588, they will also be able to earn twice as much income as they do now before having their AISH benefits clawed back.

But that’s not where the social spending announced in Thursday’s budget stops.

People receiving welfare — a program officially called “Alberta Works” by the government — will get an increase averaging five per cent at the end of March. For example, a family with two adults and two children will now receive $1,250 per month, instead of $1,206.

A single person will receive $627 instead of $589. It’s the first boost to that program since November 2008.

“That was something that hadn’t been adjusted for several years. And it was felt that it was an appropriate adjustment,” Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert said on Thursday.

When it comes to families, child-care funding receives a $21 million boost. Child-care subsidies will both increase, and become more readily available for families with a household income of less than $50,000.

The Human Services department said 4,000 Alberta families will receive an increase to the subsidies they receive, and between 3,000 and 5,000 new families are expected to join the program.

Also under the Human Services Department, child intervention and foster care receives a budget increase of more than 12 per cent, or $75 million, to deal with higher caseloads, increasingly complex cases, and to top up the wages of private or non-profit social agency employees.

Redford appears to be making headway in her leadership campaign promise to bring the salaries of agency workers up to par with government workers, in order to keep such staff from leaving to higher-paid work. The 2012-13 budget provides a five per cent wage hike, costing a total of $62 million, to those working across a number of different programs providing care to children, youth, families and people in the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program.

Liepert said the wage gap is an “anomaly” the government felt needed to be corrected.

“It’s bringing the non-profit workers’ salaries closer to what government workers earn doing the same work,” Liepert told reporters. “That is something that MLAs have been hearing about in their communities for quite a number of years. . .that gap has been widening.”

The PDD program itself receives a 5.5 per cent increase to programing for its 9,600 clients. As most PDD clients also receive AISH benefits, they will also receive a secondary boost.

Funding to the workplace standards section, to strengthen inspections and investigations, will also receive an increase — going to more than $47 million from the current $43 million.

 

kcryderman@calgaryherald.com

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