Why Are Disability Benefits Hard To Receive?

CW: Poverty

Cindy Pickel was relieved to learn about Manitoba’s new income support program for people with disabilities after months of struggling with the growing cost of living.

Pickel, who is blind and diabetic, says she has been unable to work due to her disabilities and relies on the monthly payment she receives from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit.

Initially, provincial employees assured her she would automatically qualify for the new program since she was approved for the federal disability payment.

Pickel was turned down for the new program after many phone conversations and a rigorous in-person intake process because provincial staff ruled she was not in need of financial support.

When it was introduced last December, the Manitoba Support for Persons with Disabilities program was touted as a new support for individuals with disabilities that would be independent from the normal employment and income assistance (EIA) programs and provide some additional benefits.

However, Pickel and others who work with disabled Manitobans say it’s unclear who is eligible for the program, causing frustration and disappointment in the community.

Enrollment for other eligible Manitobans who weren’t already on EIA opened on April 1.

The program provides an additional $100 per month over and beyond EIA disability rates, as well as approximately $44 per month for telephone and laundry. Each July, basic needs amounts are evaluated and updated to the rate of inflation.

According to the province’s website, Manitobans with disabilities might get $1,068 per month from EIA if they did not have children, and between $1,445 and $1,871 per month if they did.

According to a province spokesman, the province has received roughly 1,000 applications for the new program since April 1, with approximately half of them currently receiving payments.

Furthermore, one employee at an independent living center who assists people with disabilities says that a legal change has made it more difficult for them to qualify for assistance at a time when they are most in need.

At this time, Jason Hirose, a consultant with Winnipeg’s Independent Living Resource Centre, says he hasn’t heard from anyone who has successfully applied for the program. In fact, he and other employees say they haven’t heard much about the program. He thinks it is because people are tired of dealing with the provincial government.

Living in poverty is a daily struggle for many of us who are disabled. Many people have empty refrigerators, unpaid bills, and no money left over at the end of the month. Benefits need to provide a livable income for the people who need them.

Sources:

Petz , Sarah. “Concerns, Confusion Mount over Manitoba’s New Disability Income Support Program | CBC News.” CBCnews, 19 July 2023, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-disability-income-program-concerns-1.6908940.

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