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Raymond man calling for changes after AISH benefits cut

Posted on August 17, 2023 by admin

By Al Beeber
Southern Alberta Newspapers

A Raymond man says his wife’s AISH supports have been cut because he is getting money from a Worker’s Compensation Board claim.

Drew Smith told Southern Alberta Newspapers last month he wasn’t sure what the future will hold for him and his family with the loss of $1,000 in monthly income which they need to pay their rent and other expenses.

But since that interview, AISH has cut even more from his wife’s payments.

Now, said Smith, AISH is taking $2,300 a month off each AISH cheque and nobody has told him why.

Smith says he doesn’t feel it’s fair the monthly WCB money he gets from an injury have is having an impact on his wife’s AISH benefits. Smith said he gets $470 a week from WCB.

Smith, a Fed/Ex delivery driver, sustained a knee injury last year and is waiting for surgery which will happen in 10 days.

While he was told he could be back to work in two to eight weeks, Smith said he’s going to try getting back on the job sooner than that so WCB payments will stop impacting his wife’s benefits.

He said AISH deductions will be happening for the next 10 months because that’s how long he’s been getting Workers Compensation benefits.

“They told us it would be a different amount that they take each month and it’s not. They’re still taking $2,300 off each cheque,” said Smith.

In the meantime, his wife has been given a job by a company who saw news reports in July of their predicament.

“She’s got an employer who’s looking out for her and helping her stay employed through this to help us be able to keep our house,” added Smith.

He, his wife and six children live in a mobile home for which they pay $1,300 rent on a rent-to-own agreement. A seven-bedroom home elsewhere would cost about $4,000 a month, Smith estimates.

“If we lose this house where can we go,” asked Smith last month. The family is thankful for the kindness and generosity of their landlord who is helping them out. In July, he had them work in his garden in exchange for rent while the landlord was away and in August told the family to pay what they could afford.

Smith says his wife has issues which make it difficult for her to work. And the family is thankful for the unnamed business which came forward to help them with their plight.

He doesn’t hold animosity toward the agency that handles AISH but rather he says government policy needs to change.

When he goes for surgery, it will be the third time his knee has been reconstructed, Smith said.

The provincial government through senior press secretary Chinenye Anokwuru told Southern Alberta Newspapers last month that the AISH program considers a client’s spouse or partner’s income when determining the monthly living allowance a client receives.

Because recipients are supported to work as much as they are able, all income from employment is deducted at a lower rate than other sources of income.

Anokwuru added “For example, a family can earn up to $2,612 per month from employment with no deductions to an individual’s AISH benefits. Whereas a spouse or partner receiving WCB can earn up to $875 per month with no deductions to their AISH benefits. Seventy-five per cent of any income earned over that amount would be deducted. Due to privacy legislation we cannot comment on individual cases.”

“My wife is on AISH and there’s policies in AISH that definitely need to be restructured or re-looked at because they’re hindering families in Alberta,” said Smith.

“One of the biggest issues we have and it’s affecting my family right now, is I’m able to – because we’re a family on AISH, I’m able to go out and work a job and make up to $2,600 a month before they even deduct anything from her AISH,” said Smith.

“The problem with that is I fell in August and broke my knee. I’m waiting for surgery,” he said in July.

Without WCB pushing, he’d be waiting for 36 months for that surgery, said Smith last month.

“For me not to be able to work and be stuck in a chair or in my bed for the last 10 months has been one of the worst experiences of my life because I feel trapped.”

Smith said his family found out on July 1 since he’s on WCB that AISH was deducting money from wife’s AISH benefits because WCB “is considered a non-exempt income. They see it as a supplemental income and that’s the policy I have a huge problem with.

“A social program like AISH is there to benefit people that can’t exactly take care of themselves, that can’t exactly provide for their families because of their deficiencies, mental, physical, whatever they be.

“The standard needs to be set that if you’re on a program like AISH, you’re able to make a set amount and nothing should be able to change that other than extenuating situations like you’re abusing the system,” said Smith.

“For me to go from $2,600 a month before any deductions to come off of her AISH to being able to make ($875) and losing dollar for dollar after that because I got hurt at work, is not that I’m choosing not to work, it’s that I physically cannot stand long enough to go to work. Working for FedEX you’re on your feet all day,” added Smith, a heavy package delivery driver.

His work has him delivering packages weighing as much as 300 lbs. and no light duty work is available.

“It’s ludicrous,” he said of the AISH cut.

The couple has three children living with them full-time and three part-time through a previous marriage of Smith’s.

“It’s not AISH’s fault that we’re getting screwed over, it’s literally just the way their policies are written by the government and they haven’t been changed or looked at seriously in over 30 years. And that’s where the problem lies,” said Smith.

“We’re only one family, there’s 19,000 people on AISH in Alberta. How many of those people or families are running into problems like this or lost their homes?”

For his wife to wake up and realize she can’t pay rent, feed her kids or pay bills, is a struggle, he said.

“Something needs to change. These policies need to be looked at every five years on the minimum.”

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