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Disability advocate welcomes new federal benefit

By Brad Perry Apr 19, 2024 | 5:55 AM

“A step forward” is how one disability advocate describes investments contained in this week’s federal budget.

Officials announced $6.1 billion over five years and another $1.4 billion per year going forward for the Canada Disability Benefit.

The benefit will provide eligible Canadians with disabilities up to $2,400 per year, or $200 per month.

Shelley Petit, the chair of the New Brunswick Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, said she was a bit taken aback at first.

“We were led to believe, more from advocacy groups, that it was going to be higher than that,” Petit said in an interview.

“Then I sat back and thought about it for a bit. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect $10 billion to $20 billion a year, because that would be the cost to do the $2,000 [per month] that people thought we were going to get.”

According to federal figures, there are 6.2 million Canadians with disabilities and 23 per cent live in poverty — twice the rate of those without disabilities.

Petit said while $200 a month is not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, it is a good start. It could help prevent people from having to choose between food and medication, she said.

“If we don’t have our meds, guess where we end up? In the hospital for two and three and four weeks at a time, which is really expensive to the province,” said Petit.

She noted there was concern that if the benefit was higher, some provincial governments may claw back services that they provide to those with disabilities.

Petit said now that the federal government has stepped up, it is time for provinces to step up and do more.