Could you live on $1,188 for one month?
More than 40,000 of Alberta's severely disabled who receive financial support through the province's Assured Income for Severely Handicapped do, scraping by on $1,188 — or less — every month.
Recently, several local advocacy groups, including the Disability Action Hall and the Calgary Ability Network issued a challenge: Try, for one month, to live on $1,188.
For the month of March, set aside $1,188 and then hide the rest of your income from yourself. If you are brave enough to take on the $1,188 challenge, you will be trying to make it through one month on the income that nearly 41 000 Albertans with severe disabilities are provided by AISH. However, to make it easier, everyone will pay the same rent of $ 705 a month.
Why $705 a month? The average rent for a bachelor suite in Calgary is between $700 and $1,000. We are going to imagine that you got a really good deal on your bachelor suite and are paying $705 a month for rent. So from your $1,188 for the month, deduct $705, leaving yourself with $483.
$483 is the amount that you are going to try to live on for the month. This means all of your food, your transportation, whether that is a bus pass or gas for your car, clothing, utilities and of course any recreation that you wish to pursue has to be included in this amount.
And now, the good news - we are magically erasing all of your debts - your mortgage, your car payments, and lines of credit. We aren’t doing this because no one living on AISH has debts, but rather because between a mortgage and car payments alone you might find yourself with nothing left of your $1,188.
In February, I wrote about this challenge and asked a handful of provincial politicians, including Minister of Seniors and Community Services MaryAnne Jablonski, Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann, NDP Leader Brian Mason and Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith, if they would accept the challenge.
Each gave a tentative 'yes,' but wanted to know more details. So last week, I emailed each the details (as laid out above) and waited with baited breath for a response. So far, only Swann has replied:
"I’ve discussed this with other agencies and individuals and, in my present role as Leader of the Opposition in Alberta, believe I can do most by pressing this Tory government to address this scandal in the wealthiest province in Canada. I am fully convinced that I could NOT lead a healthy and productive life on $1188/mo."
Although dissappointing, at least Swann, a politician with a known activist streak, is being upfront about the reality peoples with disabilities are facing in this province.
Now it would be easy for me to simply sit back and point a wagging finger at those politicians for not following through. But I won't. Instead I am going take up the challenge and make frequent updates about the experience.
I've already done the math and it's going to be tight. Minus the $705 for rent, bills ($80 cell phone, $40 for half the Internet and electric bill) and $40 for a low-income transit pass, which Calgary Transit allowed me to buy solely for this challenge, I'm left with a whopping $323 for food and whatever life throws at me for the next 31 days. (Dear beer, You will be sorely missed. See you in April.)
So, if anyone has any tips on how to stretch a buck, such as how to make Kraft Dinner and Ichiban Noodles remotely appetizing, lemme know.