Manitoba proposes income-support stream for disabled applicants

By: Larry Kusch
Posted: 7:34 AM CDT Monday, Apr. 26, 2021

Bill 72 would remove the need for people to continually prove that they are still impacted by their disability, says Families Minister Rochelle Squires.(Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Progressive Conservative government has introduced legislation that would create a new income-support program for people with severe and prolonged disabilities.

Families Minister Rochelle Squires said Bill 72 would remove the need for people to continually prove that they are still impacted by their disability.

The proposed legislation would move about 10,000 people from Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) into a new program.

Squires said program supports would improve for these people, although the exact amount has yet to be determined.

“They will no longer have to prove on a regular basis that they still are impacted by their disability,” Squires told reporters. “We believe that this will also free up time (for) medical professionals, who won’t have to verify (disability claims).”

Bill 72 (The Disability Support Act) does not change requirements for persons on EIA who are not disabled, the minister said.

It will, however, create a new category for persons with “episodic disabilities.” These people would be exempt from the same paperwork demands of regular EIA recipients for a year, she said.

Squires said the new initiative fulfils a 2019 PC party election promise.

Manitoba Possible, formerly the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, welcomed Bill 72, calling it a “step in the right direction” in recognizing the rights of persons with disabilities.

“We eagerly await the release of the regulations that will outline the specific eligibility criteria and benefits available to Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities,” the organization said in an email to the Free Press.

In a statement, NDP MLA Danielle Adams said the bill proposes “sweeping changes” to Manitoba income assistance programs. She said while the pandemic has highlighted the need to redesign EIA, she is fearful the government “will only make things worse for those who rely on the benefits.”