Alberta Needs to Act for Persons with Disabilities during COVID-19

April 8, 2020

 
Media Release: Other Provinces Continue to Provide Additional Supports to Persons with Disabilities: When will Alberta Act?

For immediate release – April 8, 2020

Edmonton, AB —  On April 2, the British Columbia Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction announced two major measures, among others, to support individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable individuals impacted by COVID-19:

“For people in B.C. currently receiving income assistance or disability assistance, the Province will temporarily exempt federal employment insurance benefits, including the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).”

“For everyone on income assistance or disability assistance who is not eligible for the emergency federal support programs, including the CERB, the Province will provide an automatic $300-monthly COVID-19 crisis supplement for the next three months.”

B.C.’s actions follow the Ontario government’s infusion of $40 million dollars in response to COVID-19 to reduce the waiting lists of families and individuals with disabilities needing support. As we’ve previously noted, this will benefit thousands of families and individuals.

These are similar to requests we have made to the Alberta government, along with a number of others, but we have yet to see any substantive action to support individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and other Albertans with disabilities.

In contrast, the Alberta government has reduced funding to school districts allowing districts to cut educational assistant (EA) supports to students with special needs. In addition to the serious questions this action raises in a time of crisis, failing to provide the necessary resources to ensure an appropriate education may be a breach of the Education Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The Alberta government continues to claw back EI payments dollar-for-dollar for those on AISH who are unable to work as a consequence of COVID-19 and its criteria that Emergency Isolation Support exclude individuals on AISH who have lost employment and thus income through COVID-19 is discriminatory.

We are asking the Alberta government, given the recognized additional challenges facing individuals with disabilities and their families, to be equally compassionate to the governments of B.C. and Ontario by immediately:

  1. Providing an infusion of funds to reduce the waiting list for supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities
  2. Automatically renewing existing family funding agreements during the pandemic
  3. Exempting EI payments for individuals on AISH
  4. Exempting the income that is greater than AISH payments for individuals on AISH who may be eligible for the CERB

The COVID-19 crisis does not differentiate between those with developmental disabilities, their families and other Albertans. It is time for our government to be equitable in its efforts to support Albertans with and without disabilities during this crisis, by recognizing the additional challenges faced by individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

If all of us are in this together and if all of us need each other – ALL must mean ALL – and we will only know this is true when the actions of our government reflect an equal and equitable commitment to each and every one of us.

If you have questions about AISH or CERB, or other government supports, please contact our main office at mail@inclusionalberta.org.

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For media inquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Jeff Samsonow, Communications Coordinator, Inclusion Alberta
jsamsonow@inclusionalberta.org

About Inclusion Alberta: Inclusion Alberta is a family-based, non-profit federation that advocates on behalf of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. Together, we share a dream of meaningful family life and community inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities. As an advocacy organization we support families and individuals in their desire to be fully included in community life.