Kimberly Underhay is a Canadian who has survived cancer. She has also been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and has to use a walker. Her disabilities have left her unable to work, but she has dedicated her time to volunteering for organizations that help individuals facing similar struggles.
The Canada Pension Plan, or CPP, disability benefit, provides financial support for Canadians living with disabilities. For many, it has provided them not only financial security but a sense of independence. Kimberly, and many others, rely on this fund. However, this payment has made those living with disabilities ineligible for programs enacted recently in effort to combat the financial difficulties of the pandemic. During this time, the CPP itself has not been increased either.
Finances and COVID-19
In the age of COVID-19, delivery has become a new normal for many people, as a way to help mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. However, delivery costs have inhibited this possibility for some. Costs for groceries themselves have also gone up in some areas.
Further, travel has become more expensive for Kimberly and others. This is because she can no longer use the accessible transit service that she frequents. It’s been suspended due to the pandemic.
CERB stands for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides emergency relief for those affected by the pandemic economically. It’s one of the programs Kimberly doesn’t qualify for. Similarly, she doesn’t qualify for the aid specifically allocated for seniors as she’s just 53.
As many of those with disabilities have a higher cost of living, the financial struggles surrounding this pandemic have been more difficult than for the average person.
Jonathan Marchand lives with muscular dystrophy. He is a strong advocate for the idea that a federal program providing insurance would alleviate many of these burdens.
What Can be Done
Krista Carr is the VP of the Canadian Association for Community Living. This organization works with individuals who have an intellectual disability.
Krista suggests that 22% of the fund already allotted for “vulnerable populations” in Canada (CERB) should also be allocated to organizations focused on disabilities. This is because those living with disabilities comprise 22% of the whole Canadian population and a lot of these individuals don’t qualify for CERB. The federal fund is 350 million dollars.
Advocates also say the federal government should be in conversation with local governments, providing guidance and leadership.
The COVID-19 Disability Advisory group was created by the Canadian government to help determine what needs those with disabilities have during this time, and what can be done to fulfill them. Government officials are in constant conversation with experts on disability inclusion in order to understand the issue fully.
You can read more about this issue in Canada here.