People with disabilities to receive extra $52 for bus passes, transport

People with disabilities will get an extra $52 to help pay for bus passes and other transportation costs.

Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, announced the new “transportation subsidy” Monday morning.

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The first supplement will appear on individuals’ Dec. 20 cheque, which covers the period beginning Jan. 1, on top of monthly assistance payments.

“Today, we’re here to announce that beginning Jan. 1, persons on disability assistance will be able to get an annual bus pass through a new transportation supplement, without having the cost deducted from their support payments,” Simpson said.

“If people don’t want or need a bus pass, they can use the $52 monthly supplement for other transportation costs.”

Many communities don’t have a public transit system, for example, and an individual could use the funds to pay a neighbour for drives to the grocery store, Simpson said.

Everyone who qualifies for disability assistance will automatically get the supplement and need not apply.

They are not required to submit receipts, Simpson said.

Simpson acknowledged he had heard from people concerned about waiting three months for new bus pass rules to come into effect, but said the government is not considering waiving existing fees before then.

The former Liberal government boosted support for people with disabilities by $77 per month, but also started charging $52 per month for a bus pass that pass previously cost $45 per year.

The result for some was a $77-per-month raise that was reduced to $25 once they paid the new bus fee.

Inclusion B.C. executive director Faith Bodnar said her organization submitted a petition with 30,000 signatures asking for restoration of the annual disability bus pass.

“I’m very pleased today that the new goverment has made transportation for people with disabilities a priority, not only for those who choose a bus pass, but for everyone on [disability assistance],” Bodnar said.

In its throne speech on Sept. 8, the NDP promised new access to the disability bus pass.

“Starting Jan. 1, 2018, government will provide people with disabilities access to the transportation supports they need, including an annual bus pass for those who want one,” the speech said.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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