By Tiffany Williams
Albertans who receive Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) will now be able to earn more money and still remain eligible for financial assistance. On July 21 it was announced that the upper limit of the employment exemption formula increased by $500 to $1,500 per month for single AISH clients and to $2,500 per month for couples and clients with children.
In Alberta there are approximately 37,000 people receiving AISH and of that 7,000 are currently employed. As of June there were 199 AISH clients in Ponoka. With the new formula, according to Jennifer Guzzwell, communications officer of seniors and community support, AISH clients can earn their first $400 fully exempt and from $401 to $1,500 it is 50 per cent. She says that this means they can now earn $250 more per month.
Executive director for Family and Community Support Services Joanne Comeau thinks that the new changes are wonderful for people on AISH.
“Some AISH clients are employed and this is allowing them to receive more income and work more hours without being penalized with their AISH benefits,” said Comeau. “Before they were limited to their income. It allows them more income, which is a very positive thing. It also gives AISH recipients an incentive to have a part time job if they are able to work more.”
She also thinks that it will help boost their confidence and help them in the workforce.
“They will be able to gain skills, knowledge and education to completed intergrate into the workforce,” said Comeau.
The Champion Centre in Ponoka is a home for low-income people with significant barriers to independent living and also has built in supervision. Manager Fred Klooser says that the majority of residents are on AISH but they can’t work due to their mental challenges.
He says that two of their residents do work; one at a cleaning company and one at the Rising Sun Clubhouse.
“This new change will allow them to work more if they want to. Depending on their mental challenges they can only work a few hours per day,” said Klooser. “The people I employ to do cleaning here, but their main goal is to stay on their medication.”
Klooser applauds the government for making the increase but still feels that more could be done.
“I think they could have made it more equal to increase the amount they make and the AISH benefits,” said Klooser.
He stresses that he feels some of the residents at the Champion Centre would like to work but they just can’t.
AISH clients receive up to $1,088 per month as well as comprehensive health benefits that include coverage for prescription drugs, dental, eye care, emergency ambulance services, essential diabetic supplies and a waiver of fees for Alberta Aids to Daily living.
In Ponoka AISH applications are available at Ponoka Neighbourhood Place and Association on 5119-49th Ave. People can go there to get help to fill out the forms but they still need to be delivered to Wetaskiwin. For more information they can also call Cara Christopher at Alberta Employment and Immigration and Alberta Seniors offices in Wetaskiwin at 780-361-5878.