The Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, or AISH, is a provincial benefit program of the provincial government of Alberta, Canada.
Understanding the benefits program’s details, eligibility, limitations, and even AISH payment dates can be very helpful for Albertans who are currently receiving or are eligible to receive this important benefit.
AISH Payment Dates 2021
The AISH payment date structure has changed recently. Today, the dates have been moved to the beginning of the month (or the last day of the former month, if the first day of the month is a weekend).
The official aim was to help the government equalize as much as it can the number of days between payments.
The AISH payment dates for 2021 are:
|Month of Assistance (2021)||AISH Payment Dates|
|January||Dec 29, 2020|
|February||February 1, 2021|
|March||March 1, 2021|
|April||April 1, 2021|
|May||April 30, 2021|
|June||June 1, 2021|
|July||June 30, 2021|
|August||July 30, 2021|
|September||September 1, 2021|
|October||October 1, 2021|
|November||November 1, 2021|
|December||December 1, 2021|
The change in dates is not welcomed by recipients who have been depending upon these payments to meet their primary financial needs, many of which would have benefitted from payments made near the end of the month.
Your setup in receiving these payments can also substantially impact how soon they are available for you.
Direct deposits tend to be the best way. Payments are processed around midnight, and you can use the cash right away.
But if your payment arrives by cheque, it can take up to three days to arrive at its destination. Then you have to submit it and wait for it to get cleared before you can access the funds. This process can be daunting for people with mobility problems, especially those who rely on public transit to visit a bank.
What Is AISH?
The provincial government of Alberta started the AISH in 1979. As the name implies, the program aims to provide reliable income to severely handicapped individuals, i.e., people who, as a consequence of their physical, mental, or cognitive disability, cannot sustain themselves or their families through paid work.
As of February 2021, the number of people supported through AISH has grown to 69,834. It makes up 1.6% of the province’s population.
The program is designed to be relatively wholesome, covering a significant portion of the expenses someone with a disability needs to meet.
It’s important to note that even though AISH aims to provide a livable income to people with disabilities, it still encourages them to work as much as they can. Therefore, the program has detailed guidelines for how the benefit works with other income sources.
AISH Program: Benefit Details and Amounts
The AISH program has recently taken a lot of heat due to some changes. However, the ideology behind the program is still sound, and it’s to provide a disabled individual who isn’t capable of fully providing for themselves or their families, enough financial support to get by.
So, instead of a one-time lump-sum payment, the AISH program is divided into four benefits:
- Living Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Health Benefits
- Personal Benefits
AISH Living Allowance
AISH living allowance is a basic monthly sum that’s supposed to help you cover your basic necessities (e.g., housing, food, and utilities). The living allowance is further divided into two categories based on your impairment and living condition:
It’s for people living on their own or with their family (i.e., their disability doesn’t force them to live in a care home, or they have family that looks after them). It’s aimed at people living in their own premises or renting alone or with their family, living in a private group home, or who are homeless.
The amount for standard allowance is determined by any other income you might be receiving (e.g., disability benefits, insurance payment) or any other income coming into your household (e.g., your spouse’s regular income, rental income, and investment income).
The maximum standard AISH living allowance you can get is $1,685.
Modified Living Allowance
If a recipient’s disability or absence of any related caregivers forces them to live in a care facility, they are entitled to a modified living allowance.
These facilities include approved nursing homes, auxiliary hospitals, designated supportive living (DSL) facilities, and other approved residential facilities. These facilities come with various levels of care needs and associated costs.
The living allowance you get under this modified benefit is split two ways, and it’s collectively determined by your other income, whether individual or household.
You get a living allowance ($322 maximum) and the cost of your accommodation that’s paid directly to the facility. The amount paid in place of the accommodation cost is determined by facility type: private room ($2,120 maximum) and standard room ($1,743 maximum).
You can check the approved medical facilities here.
AISH Child Benefit
If the AISH recipient has a dependent child, they can also receive $200 per month for the first child and $100 each for their other children. So, if you have three children, you will receive $400 in child benefit from the AISH program.
For divorced or separated recipients, the AISH recipient is liable to receive the full child benefit amount if the dependent child resides with them for at least the same amount of time in a shared custody agreement.
AISH Health Benefits
Even though it’s a program designed for people with disabilities and special needs, the AISH health benefits cover a broader spectrum of medical needs.
When you are qualified for AISH, you will receive an AISH Health Benefits Card that you can use for various medical needs. The AISH health benefit covers you as well as your spouse or partner and your dependent children.
- Dental Care: Check-ups, cleaning, X-rays, teeth removal, dentures, etc.
- Optical Care: An eye exam and a pair of glasses every two years
- Prescription Drugs: Over 5,000 approved drugs and OTC items and supplements
- Diabetic Care: Insulin supplies, test strips, lancets, etc.
- Emergency ambulance service to the nearest emergency facility
- The out-of-pocket expense of Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL)-approved items (hearing aids, walking aids, etc.) that you might need.
AISH Personal Benefits
If you need to meet expenses that are not covered under your other AISH benefits and cannot be taken care of with your living allowance, you might qualify for AISH personal benefits. The personal benefits are provided for the recipient and dependent children, not for the spouse or partner.
They cover three different expense types:
Health-Related: Oxygen supplies, special diet, unconventional therapies (e.g., acupuncture) and massages, medical items not covered under AADL, etc.
Children-Related: Certain childcare-related and education-related expenses
Other Costs: Training, travelling, moving, funeral expenses, etc.
It’s important to note that AISH personal benefits are paid out only if you don’t have any other means to cover these expenses or there is no other program or benefits payment you can reach out to or leverage. If you have just $5,000 or more in liquid assets, you might not be eligible for the AISH personal benefits.
AISH Program Qualification Requirement or Eligibility Criteria
The core premise of the AISH program’s eligibility criteria is quite simple: every person with a severe disability that prevents them from earning enough money to survive and meet their family’s financial needs.
But although the concept is to help those who need it the most, the program also has to take other things into account as well, such as whether your family can feasibly support you or whether you have enough assets or means to get by on your own.
For starters, you must:
- Be 18 years or older and young enough to not qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) benefits;
- Be a permanent resident/natural citizen of Canada and a resident of Alberta;
- Be not in a correctional facility; and
- Be not in a mental health facility.
Apart from that, the eligibility criteria can be split into two major categories: your medical and financial condition.
If your permanent physical, mental, or cognitive disability primarily hinders your ability to earn a living, you are likely to qualify. Even then, the government’s priority would be to look into ways that might help you improve your ability to make a decent living (e.g., rehabilitation, special training).
So, if your education, temperament, or willingness is more of an influence on your ability to earn an income compared to your disability, then your qualification might get a bit complicated.
An example would be severe neurological disorders that require constant and vigilant care, and the individual cannot make a living in any way. A grey area might be people with Down syndrome, who, based on their condition, might be able to work in a limited capacity and make a partial living. People with physical disabilities, on the other hand, especially those with movement disorders, can be assimilated into a working environment with proper care and deliberation.
AISH Program Financial Eligibility
The first thing you need to know is that you can work and be eligible for AISH benefits at the same time. In fact, the government of Alberta encourages AISH recipients to work as much as they are able to. Beyond that, the two major financial factors affecting your AISH eligibility are income and assets.
To qualify for AISH, you must apply for all the other benefits you might be eligible for, including the Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D) benefit, Employment Insurance (EI), and Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) benefits.
AISH Eligibility Requirements: Income
The factors taken into consideration when determining your AISH eligibility are:
- Your income and your spouse’s income as reported in your tax filings
- Income type, recipient, and family status (e.g., if you are single, are married, or have children)
- Non-exempt income, which is counted at full value and reduces your AISH living allowance dollar for dollar. So, if you are eligible for a $1,500 AISH allowance and you earn a non-exempt income of $500 a month, your AISH allowance might be reduced to $1,000. This income includes spousal support benefits, both regular and disability benefits from CPP, EI, and employer pension programs.
- Partially exempt income, which reduces your living allowance by only a part of its value. It includes full or partial employment income, self-employment income, passive income from investment assets, dividends, rents, etc., and your spouse’s income.
There are certain single and family income exemptions as well. The rationale behind keeping regular income at partial exemption is to encourage recipients to work.
There are other exempt income sources, too, that don’t impact your AISH eligibility or reduce your living allowance. They include cash gifts, registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or registered disability savings plan (RDSP) payments, death benefits, income tax refunds, and child benefits.
AISH Eligibility Requirements: Assets
The AISH program looks at your ability to financially survive with your disability from an “asset” lens as well.
All assets to your name are divided into two types: exempt and non-exempt assets. Exempt assets don’t hinder your AISH eligibility, while non-exempt assets have their own thresholds.
Your home, your family vehicle, the second vehicle adapted for your disability, the items in your home, and your clothing are non-exempt. Financial assets like RDSP, trust accounts, Life Income Fund (LIF), and Locked-In Retirement Income Fund (LRIF) are non-exempt, too.
It’s important to note that if you receive an inheritance or a cash gift that’s substantial enough and is non-exempt, it can prevent you from qualifying for AISH. Hence, you have to convert it into an exempt asset within 365 days.
Your non-exempt assets cannot exceed $100,000 collectively. They include cash, the funds in your tax-free savings accounts (TFSA) and RRSP, recreational property or vehicle, registered retirement income fund (RRIF), and mutual funds.
It’s important to note that while the dividend income from stocks might be a partially exempted income, its value is non-exempt as an asset.
Other AISH Payment FAQs
1. What are the AISH eligibility maintenance requirements?
To maintain your AISH eligibility, you must permanently reside in Alberta. You should also adhere to any current or proposed requirements related to the analysis and tracking of your medical condition. Also, you have to keep your AISH caseworker informed about any changes in your circumstances (e.g., spousal income, children, separation).
Basically, if anything can change your AISH eligibility status or the benefits you are receiving, you need to convey it to the relevant authorities.
2. Which disabilities are Eligible for AISH?
Physical disabilities like sensory disorders (e.g., blindness, deafness), musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., missing or amputated limbs, arthritis), cancer, HIV, and kidney and heart diseases;
Mental health issues like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder; and
Cognitive disorders like Down syndrome and developmental disorders.
3. How to apply for AISH?
There are two forms you have to fill to apply for AISH:
AISH Application Part A has to be filled by the intended recipient or someone else on the recipient’s behalf. It includes details regarding your finances, assets, and general eligibility.
AISH Application Part B has to be completed by the recipient’s physician.
If your application is rejected, you have 30 days to contest the decision.
4. Are AISH benefits for life?
No. AISH is discontinued at 65, whether or not your other pensions kick in.
5. Are AISH benefits taxable?
No. AISH benefits are not considered part of your taxable income.
6. Does AISH help with moving?
Yes. If you are moving to set up a new home or leaving an abusive household, and you don’t have enough liquidity (i.e., $5,000 or less), you might be eligible for AISH personal benefits, which pay for moving.
7. Can you travel with AISH?
AISH medical coverage doesn’t extend beyond Alberta, but you will still be covered under the Alberta Healthcare Insurance Plan for basic healthcare if you travel outside the province.
However, they will not reimburse you for the medicines or supplies you buy outside Canada. If you plan your trip, you may choose to take the eligible medical supplies for the trip with you.
8. Is AISH adjusted for inflation?
No. This is one of the most significant points against AISH. It’s not indexed to the consumer price index, and the current maximum ceiling will most likely fall behind the inflation-driven cost of living.
AISH is an excellent program for Albertans with disabilities that prevent them from working and making enough living to survive. Even with its limitations and continually increasing scrutiny, the AISH is indispensable for the 700,000 Albertans whose financial survival depends upon this program.
We hope that you now have enough information about the benefits program and AISH payment dates, but if you have any more questions or suggestions, feel free to comment.