|BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong at BC Budget 2016 - Bill Tieleman photo|
It's hard to believe but new information brought forward by Raise The Rates and the BC Disability Alliance shows that there is yet another transit clawback from the long-await rate increase for people with disabilities that makes it even more measly.
It sounded modestly positive - a $77 monthly increase in disability benefits after 9 long years without one as inflation ate away the meagre amount given by the BC government.
But now we learn that not only will people with disabilities now be forced to pay $52 a month for a bus pass out of that $77 increase - leaving just $25 as the actual rate hike - but they will also still have to pay the $45 annual "administration fee" that was previously charged.
That means the $25 disability benefits increase is further reduced by a monthly $3.75 [the per month amount of the $45 a year administration fee], meaning the hike is just $21.25 a month.
If you amortize that amount over the 9 years without any increase, it means that people with disabilities have had a rate increase of just 2.3% over those 9 years - while inflation has gone up by about 1.1% a year - and the already inadequate $906 a month in 2007 should have been $990 by 2015.
Instead, it will be just $927 plus change - and that won't happen till September 2016.
And that's downright shameful in the province with Canada's best economy.
MY ORIGINAL STORY:
After Transit Deductions Removed, Disability Benefit Rate Increases Range From 1.2% to 8.5% - Over 9 years
By Bill Tieleman
"I don't think this makes life easier for people with disabilities - hopefully it makes it a little less hard."
- BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong, Feb. 16, 2016
People with disabilities - don't pop any champagne corks over the 2016 BC budget - because the first increase in disability benefits since all the way back to 2007 ranges from tiny to next to nothing.
And those little hikes come on an entirely inadequate disability benefits rate of $906 a month. And the increase won't even happen till September 1, 2016.
The BC Liberal government's "up to $77 per month rate increase" might still sound slightly good - until you realize that anyone currently receiving either a bus pass or a special transportation subsidy will lose those in exchange for the rate increase.
That means the $77 increase is minus the $66 per month special transportation subsidy that about 20,000 disability benefits recipients currently receive - leaving them with just an $11 a month improvement.
That's just a 1.2% benefits increase - and when you amortize that over the 9 years without any hike and the annual increase is literally infinitesimal - 0.13%
For the roughly 35,000 people currently receiving bus passes worth $52 a month - subtracting that means an increase of just $25 a month - or a 2.75% increase over 9 years - not exactly cost of living.
Those who were not receiving any transit or transportation funding previously will get the full $77 a month - which works out to a 8.5% increase over 9 years - less than 1% a year.
Compare those puny funding increases to the monthly savings that de Jong introduced by cutting the Medical Services Plan for families with children - up to $648 a year or $54 a month for a couple with two children earning $39,000 to $43,000.
Suffer a debilitating illness or injury - tough luck. Decide to have two kids on a modest income - payday.
I put a question to de Jong in the budget lockup - and his answer won't give people with disabilities any more comfort.
After pointing out that the disability benefits increase would be as little as $11 a month for 20,000 people, I asked the minister: "Is it not a bit unfair to have an increase that low?"
De Jong's response: "For that group the impact is very modest."
"$77 in today's world is a pretty modest amount of money, which is why I'm not trying to overestimate it," de Jong added, referring to the amount of rate increase that the roughly 47,000 people with disabilities who currently don't receive any transit assistance will get.
De Jong was right - it won't make life easier for people with disabilities - it will remind them of how unfairly they are being treated once again.