People with a disability are one of the populations most impacted by poverty in New Brunswick. They also experience worse socioeconomic outcomes than those without a disability, such as less education, negative health outcomes, lower employment rates, and higher poverty rates. In December 2020, there were 6,727 people with a disability receiving Social Assistance Extended Benefits, at $705 per month for a single person. There were also over 3,000 people with a disability receiving Social Assistance Transitional Benefits, at $571 per month for a single person. For comparison, in 2020 the average rent of a two-bedroom apartment in New Brunswick was $892 per month. With a mismatch between provided benefits and current costs of living, we need new targeted initiatives to reduce poverty in New Brunswick, especially for people with a disability.
Social Assistance recipients, including those with a disability, see deductions from their benefits when they seek employment. Currently, a $0.50 deduction is applied per dollar earned over $500. These policies discourage Social Assistance recipients from seeking employment, effectively keeping them in poverty. In addition, some people with a disability rely on paid forms of transportation, further eroding the incentive for employment. In fact, only 55% of people with a disability were employed in New Brunswick in 2017. A recent study revealed that 29,705 jobs could be generated from this untapped labour market.
Persons with a disability often experience higher costs due to their disability. This includes accessible housing, accessible transportation, additional medical expenses, and other disability support services. Too many people in New Brunswick are living in poverty that is rooted in current Social Assistance policies and programming. It’s time to end this situation with a new vision centered on people with a disability having a liveable income from fair income support programs, with benefits and access to equal employment opportunities. We propose a new and distinct program where persons with a disability are provided with liveable income from fair income support programs and benefits, access to employment opportunities, and the opportunity to live full and valued lives in all aspects of society.