Coalition calls for B.C.’s COVID-19 $300 disability top-up to be made permanent

VANCOUVER —
A coalition of groups representing people with disabilities and people living in poverty is calling for a temporary income supplement to be made permanent.

According to a survey conducted by the coalition, people who got the extra money have used it to buy healthy food, get out of debt and avoid “extreme rationing at the end of the month.”

On April 2, the B.C. government announced an extra $300 for people who receive disability benefits or welfare payments. The top-up was part of emergency supports provided during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is temporary and is only available for three months. The extra $300 is only for those who were not eligible for the federal emergency support programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

In a petition on Change.org, the coalition says many people with disabilities are immunocompromised and cannot return to normal activities as quickly as many other British Columbians. According to the petition, COVID-19 is pushing up costs for people with disabilities, an effect they expect to persist for some time.

“We continue to face added financial pressures, including delivery fees, increased utility bills from staying home, telecommunications costs, and alternatives to now-inaccessible medical care and home supports,” the petition says.

“Until a vaccine is developed, we face a new reality of living with COVID-19.”

Many people living on income assistance were already struggling to pay rising costs for food, rent and basic necessities, according to the coalition. Based on a survey of 260 people who received the $300 top-up, people spent the money on healthy food, medication and therapy, housing costs, and avoiding having to choose which bills to pay at the end of the month.

Some also said the extra money prevented “extreme rationing and starvation at the end of the month” and allowed them to “temporarily stop engaging in survival sex work to make ends meet,” according to the petition.

The petition has a goal of 2,500 signatures and has currently gotten 2,063 responses.

Without the $300 top-up, a single person receiving disability payments gets $808.42 a month, according to the B.C. government.

A single person on income assistance receives $385 a month.

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