Stone: Provincial disability assistance has increased

all persons with disabilities will receive same assistance levels and have choice on how to best meet their transportation needs

To the editor;

Since the release of the recent provincial budget, there has been significant misunderstanding about our government’s support for persons with disabilities and, specifically, as related to their transportation needs.

Despite the budget containing $170-million in new funding to increase assistance rates for all persons with disabilities, this has somehow been described as everything from a bus-pass clawback, to taking away assistance, to an example of government giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The rationale for this new funding was our government’s decision to address the reality that, currently, not all persons with disabilities are treated fairly across B.C. with respect to supporting their transportation needs.

Let’s take a closer look at the three different levels of transportation support currently provided to persons with disabilities.

Under the current system, 20,000 persons with disabilities receive a special transportation subsidy, which is paid annually and equates to $66 per month.

These individuals will continue to receive this support. They will also receive an additional $11 per month beginning Sept. 1.

A second group of 35,000 people currently receives a $52 monthly benefit in the form of a subsidized bus pass.

For all of these individuals who wish to continue to receive this subsidized bus pass, they will be able to do so — and they will also receive an additional $25 per month beginning Sept. 1.

(Note there is also an administration fee of $45 per year, which continues to apply.)

A third group of 45,000 people currently receives nothing to assist them in their transportation needs (including no special transportation subsidy and no subsidized bus pass).

To correct this unfairness, these individuals will receive an additional $77 per month as of Sept. 1.

At the end of the day, all persons with disabilities will receive the same assistance levels and have the choice as to how to best meet their unique transportation needs.

Admittedly, this has been poorly communicated by government, though it remains a fact government is increasing assistance for persons with disabilities by $170 million.

While there is more to do, this should not be couched as anything other than the positive news that it is.

Todd Stone, MLA

Kamloops-South Thompson