People who need AISH, Income Support, the Alberta Seniors Benefit or Alberta Child and Family Benefit will continue to struggle despite a six per cent increase to payments, says a Red Deer woman.
“A lot of people will think six per cent is great, but it’s not. It’s a few extra dollars,” said Charlene Monkman, who receives AISH because of a disability and a pension.
On Monday, the UCP government said it would adjust assistance program rates to match the rate of inflation.
Monkman said her monthly benefits barely covers her rent, bills and a few groceries, so she has to rely on the Red Deer Food Bank and food programs run by local churches.
“I have no extra money left. If anything comes up, and I need a few extra dollars, I don’t have it.
“I’m not alone. We’re all struggling.”
Since she often looks after her grandchildren, she worries about feeding them as prices continue to escalate.
“All we know is things are going to keep increasing for sure. That’s a definite.”
Monkman said people have waited too long for rates to increase, and while six per cent is better than nothing, she wondered how long it will take for another increase. The government has billions so there’s got to be some money left over for regular increases.
Mitch Thomson, executive director of Red Deer Food Bank, said that while the increase is a positive step, he agreed regular increases are needed.
“Often times these increases catch people up for the inflation that’s incurred in previous years, but doesn’t keep pace with where inflation is going,” Thomson said.
“For every month that a person falls behind in their bills, statistics suggest it takes three or four months to catch up.”
He said a six per cent increase will still keep recipients below the poverty line.
“We appreciate the work the province is doing, but recognize we still need to be stronger advocates for change or people will continue to rely on food banks for their basic needs versus emergency needs,” Thomson said.
Laura Giesbrecht, director of operations at The Mustard Seed, said benefits have not kept pace with inflation over the years and the number of people needing help from her organization has grown.
“For those families that were already living on the margin, we’ve seen that the cost of inflation has pushed them over the edge in so many areas, from our school lunch program to our hot meal program, and so additional funds like this would really help people for sure,” Giesbrecht said.
“We all know that the cost of everything just goes up and up. It never comes back down.”
Benefit programs will be indexed effective Jan. 1, 2023. Albertans receiving AISH and Income Support benefits will see an increase on their January payments, which will be distributed on Dec. 22. Recipients of the Alberta Seniors Benefit will see an increase on their January cheques, and recipients of the Alberta Child and Family Benefit will see the increase in their first quarterly payment in February 2023.
Based on the maximum core monthly benefit rates for single people with no children, the following are examples of the monthly benefit rate changes:
• $1,685 to $1,787 — AISH
• $745 to $790 — Income Support (expected to work)
• $866 to $919 — Income Support (barriers to full employment)
• $286 to $303 — Alberta Seniors Benefit
The increased payment for annual totals for the Alberta Child and Family Benefit, for a family with one to four children is $120 for one child, $198 for two children, $260 for three children, and $307 for four children.
The province says about 72,000 people receive AISH each month, 45,000 receive Income Support each month, and there are 43,000 children who are dependents of AISH and Income Support recipients. About 176,000 seniors receive Alberta Seniors Benefits, and between 185,000 and 190,000 families access the Alberta Child and Family Benefit.