Persons receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) benefits are asking why the government is excluding them from COVID-19 relief programs.
Phillip Shaw, an incomplete paraplegic living in Calgary, receives $1,685 per month through the province’s AISH program.
Coupled with the income he used to receive working part-time, Shaw made around $2,200 a month.
“I don’t get to save much, I don’t get to travel, and I certainly cannot afford to eat out or order in,” he said.
Due to the recent government push for self-isolation, Shaw hasn’t been able to work, leaving him to rely solely on the money he receives through AISH.
“I’m almost offended seeing people complaining about not being able to live off $2,000 a month. Myself and others have to live off $1,700,” Shaw said.
Province said AISH recipients already receive government supports
Alberta’s Community and Social Services spokeswoman, Diane Carter, confirmed that as of right now, there are no programs in place to offer additional aid to persons receiving AISH.
“Because they are already receiving a source of income, they do not meet the qualifications for the other programs,” said Carter.
Earlier this year, the province moved AISH payments to the first of the month, or the day before if it fell on a weekend.
That’s already caused some anxiety among recipients that they may be unable to pay their rent or certain bills when they come due.
‘…We can’t see you’
Shaw said that not only has his income been reduced, but his cost of living has increased.
“My physio has been cancelled, leaving me back to taking potent medication and basically sleeping for 18 hours a day,” said Shaw.
Shaw said the exclusion from the Alberta government sends a pretty clear message to anyone living with disabilities.
“You’re living under the basic cost of living, but we can’t see you,” said Shaw.
Due to Shaw’s medical condition, he’s considered a high-risk candidate for contracting coronavirus, making it imperative that he self-isolates.
“My grocery bill has gone up by about a third due to ordering online and delivery,” said Shaw.
“I question why we are not being given a chance to take at least a partial amount of the $1,100 Emergency Needs Allowance offered today by the Alberta government,” he said.
Push for more AISH support
Shaw has been in contact with Calgary – Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley’s office in hopes that more funding can become available.
“They’ve been pushing for more support, but they said they just aren’t getting much of a response from the government,” said Shaw.
Shaw said he’s frustrated that despite being contributing members of society, AISH recipients are being overlooked and undervalued.
“I worked full time for this country since I was 15. I paid taxes and I volunteer more than I would have ever imagined and I feel that myself and others have a right to not be counting pennies in a time of crisis,” he said.