OPEN LETTER: Call to Reinstate the $300-Per-Month COVID-19 Supplement and Raise BC Income and Disability Assistance Rates

Honourable John Horgan
Honourable Mitzi Dean
Honourable Nicholas Simons
Honourable Selina Robinson

OPEN LETTER: Call to Reinstate the $300-Per-Month COVID-19 Supplement and Raise BC Income and Disability Assistance Rates

Dear Premier and Ministers,

We are writing with respect to Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) Resolution 2021-16 “Support for the Permanent Reinstatement of the $300-Per-Month COVID-19 Crisis Supplement,” which was presented, affirmed and endorsed by consensus at the UBCIC Chiefs Council on February 25, 2021 (enclosed).

As you are aware, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented financial challenges and other barriers to wellbeing that not only disproportionately impact persons with disabilities and low-income individuals, but also exacerbate the interconnected social crises that are harming Indigenous lives, including homelessness, substance abuse, intergenerational trauma, and mental health issues. Sadly, rather than implementing the necessary measures to support those most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities, the government has chosen to claw-back the $300-per-month COVID-19 Crisis Supplement to social assistance rates that was introduced on April 22, 2020. As pre-COVID social assistance rates did not even lift people above BC’s official poverty line, the COVID supplement was a vital support that had tangible and critical impacts; persons with disabilities and impoverished individuals and families relied upon every dollar to afford basic necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and internet.

Consequently, by UBCIC Resolution 2021-16, the UBCIC Chiefs Council joins community members, advocates, and organizations in supporting the 300 to Live Campaign, the movement launched by a coalition of disabled and neurodiverent people to lobby the provincial government to maintain the $300/month increase to social assistance rates, and to permanently raise income assistance rates to at least the poverty line, indexed for inflation. The UBCIC Chiefs Council urges you to not only implement these  vital measures, but to support the recent report and recommendations released by the B.C. Basic Income Panel on January 28, 2021. This expert panel identified 65 recommendations that are aimed at revitalizing an outdated and stagnant social assistance framework. We urge you to take immediate action to implement these vital recommendations, including raising disabilities rates by $500 per month to reach the poverty line, making the $300 pandemic top-up permanent, providing extended health-care benefits to all low-income individuals, and enhancing financial and support services for young adults and youth in care.

We remind you that prior to your government’s election in 2017, the previous government had frozen basic social assistance rates at $610/month for nearly a decade, effectively fortifying the barriers confronting persons with disabilities and impoverished people. In addition, since 2007 there have been no increases to the $375-per-month shelter allowance given to people with disabilities to pay for rent and housing – a fact that is particularly alarming given that rental and living costs in B.C. have soared since then. The UBCIC Chiefs Council impresses upon you the urgent need to immediately begin working to implement the $300 to Live Campaign and BC Basic Income Panel’s directives and recommendations, including prioritizing the permanent installation of the $300-per-month COVID-19 supplement.

We hope you will safeguard the health and safety of Indigenous people, especially our Elders, on income and disability assistance who are fighting hard to overcome the added challenges of the pandemic, while also struggling to fulfill their basic living needs.

We look forward to your response.

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President

Chief Don Tom
Vice-President

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson
Secretary-Treasurer

CC:
UBCIC Chiefs Council
300 to Live
Disability Alliance BC

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