Toronto Star

Promised funds for disabled still haven’t arrived

Pandemic has laid bare systemic issues for people with disabiliti­es


Lene Andersen says it’s hard to feel optimistic about Ottawa’s plans for Canadians living with a disability after waiting months for emergency funding that was promised, but never came. That’s something Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough takes personally.

“It’s so unacceptab­le and it’s been so frustratin­g because of how quickly we identified this need,” said Qualtrough, adding that the government is only “weeks away” from having the money being dispensed.

“It has taken way too long, and it will not happen again,” she said during an interview with the Star this week.

Andersen, a Toronto-based author and advocate who lives with rheumatoid arthritis, is one of millions who lives with a disability in Canada and who the government had in mind when they promised emergency funding four months ago. She’s lived in a wheelchair for decades, writes a blog on her website called The Seated View, and writes books for people who are struggling with chronic illness.

In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged funding in a one time, tax-free payout of up to $600 for people holding a Disability Tax Credit certificat­e. At the time, he acknowledg­ed “significan­t challenges” faced by people with disabiliti­es during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s still not in anyone’s bank account,” Andersen said.

She’s someone who fell through the cracks of the system when the pandemic shook the country in March. She wasn’t eligible for CERB and doesn’t have support through a disability benefit because she has an income.

As a self-employed author with a disability, “I’m in that grey zone of not bad enough off that I have to apply for benefits, but not to the point where I can actually be as comfortabl­e as I would like to be,” Andersen said.

The emergency funding is “not a huge amount, but it is certainly something that would be welcomed,” she added.

“It feels a little bit like people with disabiliti­es are yet again the last on the list, and optional at that.”

For advocates, people with disabiliti­es and the federal government, the pandemic has laid bare systemic issues that have been in place in the country for a long time.

Maureen Haan, president of the Canadian Council on Rehabilita­tion and Work, says people with disabiliti­es in Canada already live life at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to social supports. But the pandemic has made that evident in an easy to grasp dollar amount, she said.

When the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) came, eligible Canadians could apply for $2,000 per month if their jobs were affected by the pandemic. Millions of Canadians qualified.

For people with disabiliti­es on supportive income, in normal times, they get $1,000 per month on average, Haan said.

“So, the average person who’s contributi­ng to society, they’re worth $2,000. But a person with a disability, they’re worth $1,000,” she said.

“When the next pandemic hits, or if there’s a huge second wave, we can’t be in the position where the federal government can’t get money to people with disabiliti­es.”

Qualtrough acknowledg­ed it’s been “embarrassi­ngly hard” to effectivel­y distribute the funding the government promised.

It comes down to not having a comprehens­ive list of people with disabiliti­es, she said.

“What we knew going in, and what has really been highlighte­d, is we don’t have necessaril­y that kind of system for people with disabiliti­es,” she said.

 ??  ?? Employment and disability minister Carla Qualtrough said funding delay is unacceptab­le.
Employment and disability minister Carla Qualtrough said funding delay is unacceptab­le.

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