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N.L. launching disability benefit to top up federal program and create basic income

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey pictured in this March 21, 2024 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey pictured in this March 21, 2024 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is launching a disability benefit that will top up the federal government's recently announced aid program.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Disability Benefit will offer up to $400 a month to those who qualify, beginning in July 2025.

A news release says the provincial program builds on the Canada Disability Benefit, which will provide a maximum of $2,400 a year -- or $200 a month -- for low-income people with disabilities, also beginning July 2025.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government says its benefit will be in addition to existing provincial programs for low-income people, and ultimately establish a basic income for people with disabilities.

Josh Smee, chief executive of anti-poverty non-profit Food First NL, applauded the policy, noting that Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of severe food insecurity among the provinces, adding that many of those going hungry are people with disabilities.

He said the move is especially heartening after many advocates felt the federal program wouldn't do enough to lift significant amounts of people with disabilities out of poverty.

"Because disability is so expensive, even aside from being out of the labour market, you're spending more money on lots of things," Smee said in an interview. "So I think (this program) is a good thing to see."

The province says the new benefit will raise the annual income of a single person with a disability working a full-time minimum wage job by 25 per cent, to $35,500 from $28,300. A single person with a disability receiving the maximum amount on the provincial income support program will see their income increase by nearly 50 per cent, to $22,580 a year from $15,380.

Smee noted that someone earning $22,580 a year is still living in poverty, but the increase from the previous amount is "a pretty big lift nonetheless."

Eligibility for the provincial program is based on income and is available to qualifying people aged 18 to 64.

Newfoundland and Labrador's basic income program for residents aged 60 to 64 began in April.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2024.

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