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Canada Disability Benefit won’t lift ‘hundreds of thousands’ out of poverty, new numbers confirm

The new Canada Disability Benefit will lift about 25,000 adults out of poverty, according to new numbers released by the federal government — a figure well short of the hundreds of thousands the government said the benefit would help when it introduced the legislation in 2022.

“We have an opportunity in the House to bring about a once-in-a-generation change and lift hundreds of thousands of working-age Canadians with disabilities out of poverty,” Carla Qualtrough, then the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, told the House of Commons on September 21, 2022.

The Liberals passed Bill C-22 in June 2023, creating a new federal benefits program to lift people out of poverty by topping up provincial supports. Payments will begin rolling out in July 2025. The maximum benefit for low-income Canadians with disabilities will be $200 monthly.

While 1.6 million Canadians with disabilities live below the poverty line, April’s federal budget indicated only 600,000 would be eligible for the new benefit.

The government’s numbers show that by 2028, the benefit “will lift 25,000 working-age persons with disabilities, and 15,000 of their family members, out of poverty each year.”

At a public transit announcement in Brampton, Ont., CBC News asked Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities Minister Kamal Khera what her message was for advocates who say the federal government broke its promise to the disabled community. Khera spoke instead about the billions of dollars Ottawa has allocated to the benefit.

“I think it’s important to recognize the fact that for the first time ever, we have a statutory benefit in Canada, a disability benefit,” she said. “I will tell you in this particular budget, we got the single largest line item in this budget, the $6.1 billion for the first-ever Canada disability benefit.”

WATCH: Minister questioned about new disability benefit

Minister questioned about Canada’s disability benefit as critics say program falls short

Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, Kamal Khera, is asked why Canada’s disability benefit will only lift 25,000 Canadians out of poverty instead of the hundreds of thousands it promised originally.

The government released the new numbers in a written response to Green Party MP Mike Morrice after Khera appeared before a parliamentary committee.

“For three years, the government had promised a benefit that would lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty,” said Morrice, MP for Kitchener Centre. “And so it is disappointing, and so it makes it more difficult to trust this government.”

Morrice said he and other anti-poverty advocates will continue to apply pressure.

“What it means for folks in my community is that we are going to see disproportionate rates of people with disabilities in my community living in poverty and that we’re going to need continued advocacy from across the country,” he said.

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