Renaud not surprised by AISH review
Marie Renaud hopes that the auditor general’s report criticizing the AISH program will help spark change.
Before becoming the MLA for St. Albert, Renaud worked as the executive director for the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides residential and day supports to adults with developmental disabilities. It is there that she worked closely with the recipients receiving AISH and helped navigate the complex program.
“I would completely back up the fact that AISH has been a problem for a very long time,” Renaud said.
On Monday, auditor general Merwan Saher issued a report criticizing the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program as inefficient and inconsistent.
His report found the program to have a very difficult and complicated intake process and that online resources are hard to navigate. Overall, the most successful candidates are the ones who are best able to fill out forms and who are persistent.
While working at Lo-Se-Ca, Renaud said she saw the problems with the system first hand.
Now working as an MLA she continues to see issues with the AISH system persist. She said AISH is among the top priorities for constituents who visit her office. She helps people navigate the complicated system, appeals and sorting out the proper paperwork.
The report found that once the department receives the application, on average it takes 203 days for the program to begin.
“The people that really do need this kind of assistance – and you see that 200 days is the norm – you break that down to somebody who is unable to work with really no source of income and that can really break someone, that kind of waiting time,” Renaud said.
While people are waiting for their benefits to kick in, Renaud says the long wait period puts an extra strain on friends, family and local community supports such as the food bank.
Although she was extremely happy to see the auditor general tackling the program so thoroughly, she thinks even more changes can be made to help support the program.
Some of the problems Renaud has with the program are the asset and income limits placed on recipients.
Individuals on AISH along with their cohabitating partner must not exceed $100,000 in assets for program eligibility requirement.
Renaud says these limits can trap individuals in a cycle of poverty. With the cap on overall assets she says that it is difficult to buy even a small condo, which forces people to rent and continue to live in poverty.
Renaud says that the amount granted to individuals is a very small amount to live on. The program allows for a maximum living allowance of $1588 per month. Along with this, individuals are allowed to earn an additional $800 per month from other sources before their benefits will be adjusted.
She says she hopes that a further review of the program will result in an increased amount individuals may earn while on the program. With the current limits, Renaud says it makes it difficult for recipients to gain independence while restricted to earning such low amounts.
“It’s like any system, you don’t want to set people up for dependency,” Renaud said. “You want to put the incentive right in front of people so the incentive is there to be as independent as possible and I’ve long been concerned that maybe the system doesn’t do that.”