The disabled can now make a choice, should they continue to get a bus pass as part of their benefits and receive just the $25-a-month raise that persons with disabilities will receive starting September?
Or should they forget about a bus pass and just take the entire windfall of the $77-a-month increase to disability assistance that starts this September?
It all depends on each person’s circumstances.
If someone on disability lives in a central area, they could get by without having to get a monthly bus pass, said Verity Howarth with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows NDP.
But if they have health issues and have to get to a hospital, that could require regular bus trips meaning it would make more sense to keep receiving the bus pass and just go for the $25 increase.
Howarth was with a small group protesting the change outside the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation offices on Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge on Thursday.
Bob Goos showed up to lend his support also and said the increase may work for some people but most people on disability income don’t have a car so they need to take a bus in order to get around.
Many people who might be affected are reluctant to speak out any issues they have, he added.
“My experience talking to some people locally is that people who are directly affected don’t want to talk about it. They’re nervous.”
Howarth added that those on disability could have their benefits cut or an investigation could be started on them if they speak out.
According to the ministry, a single person on disability income receives $983 a month for food and shelter. They can supplement that to a certain extent by working or through other supplements.
Howarth said rates haven’t increased since 2007.
Mike Mappin, from Burnaby, was also at the protest. He’s on disability and is no longer working part-time and said he’s about to find out how the change will affect him.
“They raised it $77 and they want you to pay for your bus pass out of that raise.” That increase is the first over 10 years. “That’s insane.”
He’s lucky he’s renting a cheap place in Burnaby for $650 a month and couldn’t imagine how people get by if they’re paying rent of $1,000 a month.
He’s pretty sure he’ll need a bus pass however.
The ministry is also eliminating the annual $45 bus pass administration fee as part of its rate increases.