Firstly, everything I’m about to share in this post is derived from my own experiences and unique situation. In no way is this a complete or accurate portrayal of every person’s circumstances. However, after speaking with several friends who also receive disability income support as well as broader research, I can confidently say that my situation is not uncommon. But more than the numbers I’ll be sharing through this mini-series, I’m speaking more to the governmental system that provides this service and the attitudes and perceptions therein. Please read with an open mind, and please do your own research if interested, but remember that no matter what you read, on my blog or via another source, nothing can be verified unless it comes directly from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and its employees.
Secondly, I will be referencing the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction in each post in this series. But for the ease of reading, I will simply refer to it as the Ministry. For further reading, visit the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s Disability Assistance page.
Getting married in British Columbia is synonymous with financial hardship for people with disabilities. And I, as a fully blind woman, was all too aware of this as soon as my partner slipped the ring onto my finger. Our six-month engagement was not only a countdown to our becoming husband and wife, but also to the start of a bleak and downward turn for our financial situation that required as much, if not more, planning than our wedding.
Here are the facts of what we were facing:
- A single person receiving disability income from the Ministry can earn up to $15,000 before their disability payments get cut, dollar for dollar.
- When a disabled person receiving disability income gets married, that household can earn up to $18,000 cumulatively before their disability payments get cut, dollar for dollar.
- The payments reset each spring and the client receives monthly support, but only until their income threshold [$15,000/$18,000] is met.
What did this mean for my husband and I? First, let’s look at this in a broader scope.
At the time of this writing in May 2022, minimum wage in British Columbia is $15.20 per hour. And if you dare to follow my less-than-exemplary math skills, let’s find out how much a full-time job at minimum wage turns out to be:
- $15.20 per hour x 40 hours per week = $608
- $608 per week x 4 weeks = $2,432
- With a month’s income as $2,432, and using this income tax calculator the net income that is brought home is $1,851.
With one partner earning $1,851 at minimum wage, it will take an estimated seven months before their income threshold is met and the income support for the disabled partner is cut off for the remainder of the year. But many factors can affect this. What if the non-disabled partner works a job that pays higher than minimum wage? What if they receive a promotion or work a second job? What if the disabled partner has a job as well? It simply means that the income threshold will be met sooner and each dollar earned is one less that the disabled partner can receive from the Ministry.
And I’d be remiss not to mention that the income earned from the Ministry is less than that of minimum wage. And pardon my bluntness, but particularly in this province and the current economic situation, how is anyone supposed to make it as a single-income household? Rent is extortionate depending on the region in which you live, but prices are rising everywhere. Food and fuel are going up, and being disabled has its own costs—adaptive equipment, service animals, medical expenses, etc. It’s hard for anyone. And it’s under these circumstances that the government deems it appropriate to cut a disabled person’s income while they are already earning below minimum wage.
So for an average, newlywed couple without any financial advantages—you know, normal people—this means my husband and I are only able to receive my disability income for seven months, unless I’m able to get work and thus, reach the limit in less time. Any financial success we may come upon, every dollar we earn between the two of us, is one less dollar we won’t have once we reach $18,000.
But the most disheartening part of all of this is that getting married is the cause for these financial losses. When my husband and I first delved into the realities of what we had to prepare for, I sat at the kitchen island and cried. It wasn’t fair. Why was I being punished for finding love? Simply because I was getting married, the government felt that I didn’t need the financial support anymore. Was I supposed to marry rich just because I’m disabled? Sorry, but I didn’t get that memo.
Was I such a burden that even the government didn’t care to support me and help me thrive in our predominantly able-bodied society anymore? Could they not wait until their burden was shuffled off onto her husband to deal with now? *Sigh of relief*
I’ll never know. But what I do know is how it feels to make a decision that I believe in wholeheartedly and yet, feel as though I’m being devalued and penalized for it. But, there was a potential way out and I had to weigh my options carefully.
Marriage or money … it shouldn’t need to be such a stark choice. But it was, and even though you know what I decided, stick around for my next post to find out how I got there.
Read this next: A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART TWO: HOW TO HAVE YOUR COMMON-LAW CAKE AND EAT IT TOO [BUT WHY I DIDN’T]