2022 BC Budget Consultation Presentation
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is one of ten permanent parliamentary committees of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Each year, the committee holds province-wide consultations to seek the views of British Columbians on priorities for the next provincial budget. Find details HERE.
This month, David Sherritt, one of our Board Members, was able to speak with the Committee. Each presenter gets only 5 minutes to share opinions about the provincial budget and BC's finances. Here is Dave's speech:
Hello everyone, thank you for having me here today. I am a Board Member and Vice-President with BC People First. We are a provincial non-profit society that works to make sure that people with intellectual disabilities are respected and included in our communities. We are a group of self-advocates and have hundreds of members across the province. We speak on behalf of our members who regularly let us know what troubles they are facing every day.
I’m here to speak about PWD rates and how this directly relates to the lack of access to our communities and our right to be included.
The current PWD single rates are $1,233. But $1233 does not cover the basic expenses of life each month. We have seen with CERB pandemic funding the rate for a basic living income has been set at $2000. Which is just barely enough to get by but people with disabilities are expected to live on a lot less. When we see things like this it shows how little consideration is given to people with disabilities to ensure we have a good life. I say this because $1233 is not a livable income. So a lot of people with disabilities are then forced to live with their parents, or in an institution, or end up homeless because there are no other options. There is no one solution that will work to help solve these problems but we do know that PWD rates need to increase. It WILL help.
The earnings exemption is a great program for those who can work. But remember that not everyone can work AND trying to get a job can be expensive. People don’t just get jobs, especially people with disabilities, because we are judged harshly and often not given chances for employment. Searching for jobs takes time. Needing nice clothes for job searching and interviews costs money we don’t have. Volunteering and networking costs can add up when you need to eat meals out and go to events to meet people. This is just one of the reasons PWD rates need to be higher.
There are lots of options, like increasing the rental subsidy to what rent actually costs. If you truly don’t want more homeless people in our communities then you need to support people with enough to get by and provide opportunities to be a part of the community. We deserve more than to just barely survive. A single room for rent on average is $600 and this is not independent living. The rental subsidy is only $375. $600 should be the bare minimum for the rental subsidy. But if you want people to have access to their right to live independently and reach their full potential, the rental subsidy should realistically be $1,500.
We appreciate the earnings exemption for people who can work. A lot of people with disabilities want to work. But as I mentioned before it is hard to get a job when you are barely surviving and can’t afford the costs of trying to get a job.
More often than not food is what gets forgotten. We hear countless stories from our members about how they can’t afford healthy food or any food. When people have to sacrifice healthy food to pay rent and bills it leads to many more health concerns in the future. Investing in healthy lifestyles for people with disabilities can actually help save more money in the long run. Healthy food costs more and we deserve to eat healthy and take care of ourselves properly.
There have been multiple times when I had to choose between paying bills and buying groceries. Times when I had just enough for groceries for the week or to pay the electric bill. It is a common saying that you don’t live on PWD you exist on PWD. Is this what you want for people with disabilities? Anyone could get a disability at any time, we never know what could happen in life. What would you want if you were in this position? Would $1,266 be enough for you to live on and have a good life?
One BCPF Member wants you to know that if she didn’t get a deal on rent from her parents or have her son living with her to help her with bills then she would not be able to do anything in her community. This person volunteers a lot and she works, too. She says she can only afford to do these things because she has help paying her bills. If she didn’t have the help she wouldn’t have access to a nice place with her own kitchen and washroom. She wouldn’t be able to have a routine in her own space to allow her the freedom to work and volunteer and be in the community.
Independent living is way better than living in an institution and everyone deserves this opportunity. Independent community living has also been proven to be cheaper for taxpayers and more sustainable than institutional style living. Institutions and group homes often take a way people’s rights and there is a better way.
Overall, we want you to understand that the amount we receive on PWD barely covers what we need to survive. Let alone what we need to actually be a part of the community as full citizens. Things need to change. Please increase PWD rates to reflect inflation and a basic living income. We ask you to please consider how doing so is a preventative measure and the right thing to do.
Thank you so much for your time.