The B.C. Liberal government has made an important move to make the financial lives of some disabled individuals easier.
Last month, Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell announced that starting this month an individual with the Persons With Disabilities designation will be able to receive financial gifts and inheritances of up to $100,000 without affecting their monthly payments.
The former lifetime gift and inheritance limit was $5,000 per person, after which assistance payments were clawed back from their monthly payments.
A couple – both with Persons With Disabilities (PWD) designation – will now be able to receive $200,000 without losing eligibility for assistance. The previous level was $10,000.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said she is proud of her government’s move, as the new levels for financial gifts and inheritances make a lot more sense now.
She noted the new policies mean PWD designated people’s pensions can’t be touched and that way they can have gift and inheritance money without being penalized.
In the case of an inheritance, Stilwell said the higher asset limits will free up many clients from having to set aside that money in a trust.
The government is also changing the way trust payments are handled, giving people receiving disability assistance greater flexibility in how they use that money to lead more independent lives.
Furthermore, the $8,000 annual cap on trust payments has been eliminated.
According to Social Development minister, the new policy changes affect 96,000 people in British Columbia who receive disability assistance.
So, this is good news for people with disabilities, but they have to receive a financial gift or an inheritance to take advantage of the new changes.
However, life can definitely be a struggle for folks with disabilities.
They go through life with ongoing day-to-day issues that non-disabled individuals don’t have to deal with or even think about.
On top of that, it can be a financial struggle for people with disabilities.
Too many are struggling with the current monthly assistance payments, which are leaving people with disabilities close to the poverty line.
Some folks will get out of that predicament because they will be able to keep more of the money from financial gifts without losing their monthly payments.
The province previously raised the earned income exemption, so people can earn up to $9,600 a year without reduction of their disability assistance.
While that helps the financial situation for some people with disabilities, they still have to find jobs to take advantage of the additional income.
It’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.
Ken Alexander is editor of the 100 Mile House Free Press