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Tag: Persons with Developmental Disabilities

UCP passes inflation-relief measures as fall sitting winds down

“This is by far the most significant relief package in Canada,” Matt Jones, minister of affordability and utilities, told reporters.

Jones said the relief measures are tied to the price of oil as represented by West Texas Intermediate crude.

“We want Albertans to benefit from their resources. That’s why you see us flowing through benefits in oil and gas prices to protect Albertans from where they pay more for oil and gas prices,” he explained. 

But the opposition New Democrats were quick to point out that the act reindexes income benefits to inflation, which the NDP had done in 2018.

Jones had promised a host of tax breaks, direct payments to low-income Albertans, and heating rebates a week earlier, when on Dec. 7 he introduced Bill 2, now the Inflation Relief Amendments Act.

The act provides six monthly $100 relief payments to seniors and families with children whose annual household incomes are less than $180,000, with payments ending in June. The act suspends the 13-cent per litre provincial fuel tax on gas and diesel over the same period, while also deferring electricity costs above 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour in January, February and March for customers on the regulated rate option. 

 

Santa floating in a round tube in the an ad for family passes to the Pincher Creek swimming pool

 

Costs above that threshold will be gradually tacked onto customers’ electricity bills through April 2023 and December 2024. The act provides temporary price guards on natural gas through the end of March.

It also bumps Albertans’ provincial income tax credits by about 2.5 per cent for fiscal year 2022, with another six per cent raise for 2023. The extra credits mean that Albertans won’t pay provincial income tax on the first $21,000 they make in 2023, striking 95,000 citizens off that year’s tax rolls, according to Jones.

Income supports, including Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and benefits to Persons with Developmental Disabilities, will also go up by six per cent in 2023, and will stay indexed to inflation moving forward.

The UCP deindexed AISH, PDD and seniors’ benefits in 2019, shortly after the party took over the legislature from Rachel Notley’s NDP. 

“The UCP justified the cruel decision by saying that they couldn’t afford the increased costs and running deficits, yet they paid for their ridiculous war room and gave away handouts to wealthy corporations,” New Democrat Marie Renaud (St. Albert) told the house Wednesday.

Thanking Renaud “for the history lesson,” Seniors Minister Jeremy Nixon answered that the UCP is now in a position to help.

 

Brightly coloured floaties in an advertisement for pool parties at the Pincher Creek pool

 

“We inherited a fiscal train wreck from the members opposite, and we brought our fiscal house in order for the sustainability of programs going forward,” Nixon said. 

Renaud shot back that by “ignoring the fact that they’ll be responsible for people impacted in society with three years’ worth of cuts,” Bill 2 amounted to too little, too late. 

“Just apologize and do better,” Renaud demanded.

Meeting with community journalists after the floor exchange, Minister Jones said the act would support all Albertans, regardless of age, ability or income bracket. 

When asked why payments and affordability measures are timed to lapse after May’s  provincial election, Jones said the government needs to gauge the act’s success. 

“We’ve always envisioned this as an inflation relief package for the problem that exists now, which will give us time to evaluate the situation over the next six months, so that we can respond appropriately, based on our financial position and the realities at that time,” he said.

UCP promises extensive affordability measures heading into winter

“Work is underway to get the system set up and running, and we will provide a more detailed update before the holidays if this legislation is passed,” Affordability and Utilities Minister Matt Jones told reporters at an Edmonton press conference.

Reporters grilled Finance Minister Travis Toews about the timing of monthly payments to seniors, families with children, and people receiving disability benefits, now set to end one month after May’s provincial election.

Toews said the government’s massive budgetary surplus allows the UCP to help Albertans. The government will reassess Albertans’ needs after the six-month time frame is up, he added. 

“The average Alberta household with or without children, with or without seniors, or vulnerable Albertans will receive up to an estimated $900 in broad-based relief alone,’’ Jones told reporters last Wednesday.

Jones made a similar statement in a Nov. 29 tweet, in which he quoted himself telling the Calgary Herald that “The broad-based relief alone will provide the vast majority of households — with or without children, with or without seniors — with up to $900 or more in relief.”

 

Shelves of bottled liquor in an ad for Town & Country Liquor Store in Pincher Creek

 

Jones then reiterated commitments Smith made when she publicly unveiled the plan on Nov. 22. The plan promises $100 payments to seniors and people receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Persons with Developmental Disability (PDD) payments for six months every month for the first half of 2023. Families that make less than $180,000 per year will get the same payments for every child. The income eligibility would see monthly payments go to 80 per cent of families in the province, Jones said. 

 Albertans already receiving core support programs like seniors benefits, AISH, PDD and income support wouldn’t have to apply for the plan’s monthly payments. Families with children would have to apply through a government website, where they would be asked to provide income information.

The payments will be non-taxable, Jones said.

The government will boost AISH, PDD, income support and seniors benefits by six per cent starting in the new year, which Jones said would match inflation for 2022.

 

 

The plan would defer a portion of winter electricity bills for consumers on regulated rate option plans for the first three months of the new year. Charges above 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour will be spread over monthly bills starting in April. This includes municipalities and energy suppliers not covered by the Alberta Utilities Commission. 

Seventy-five-dollar rebates will go to 1.9 million electricity consumers in January and February, with $25 rebates in March and April. Credits will carry over where electricity bills come in below $75, Jones said. 

The government will halt the province’s 13 per cent fuel tax on gas and diesel from January through the end of June, costing the treasury an estimated $600 million in lost revenue. The plan also increases provincial income tax exemptions and provincial tax brackets by just under 2.5 per cent. 

“I don’t have information on timing,” Jones said when pressed on the rollout for the proposed regulatory framework. The minister said he hoped to see permanent “natural gas price protection” starting in the new year, but again balked at providing a hard timeline.