If you’ve been following my coverage of the 2022–2023 budget for Alberta, you’re probably already familiar with the fact that the UCP government released their latest budget late last month.
This is their fourth budget since being elected, and it will be likely be their last budget before the election.
When the UCP dropped their first budget in October 2019, they predicted that by the time the 2022–2023 budget year rolled around, they’d be paying $1.399 billion to fund operating expenses for the AISH programme.
The following spring, they bumped that number to $1.441 billion. Since then, however, that number has kept dropping.
Last spring, the UCP government cut that forecast down to $1.426 billion. And last month, they cut down even more, to $1.371 billion.
Not only is that less than what they predicted last year and the year before, it’s even less than the lowball target they forecasted back in the autumn of 2019.
To be fair, though, the government has increased the overall budget for the community and social services ministry, which is responsible for administering the AISH programme.
Here’s how 2022–2023 funding for the various CSS programmes has changed since the original target set in October 2019 and the new estimate announced just month.
|Ministry support services||$12||$15||$3||25.0%|
|Employment & income support||$790||$813||$23||2.9%|
|Homeless & outreach support services||$197||$193||-$4||-2.0$|
|Community supports & family safety||$134||$138||$4||2.9%|
Looks like AISH and homeless/outreach programmes are the only ones taking a hit this year, compared to their original targets, losing $28 million and $4 million, respectively.
Now, let’s take a look at programme funding over the last 4 years, compared to the NDP’s last budget, in 2018–2019.
|Ministry support services||$13||$15||$2||15.4%|
|Employment & income support||$921||$813||-$108||-11.7%|
|Homeless & outreach support services||$196||$193||-$3||-2.5$|
|Community supports & family safety||$120||$138||$18||15.0%|
Here, we see a significant increase in spending for AISH, compared to where the NDP left it, with an additional $229 million, a 20% jump.
Now before we get too excited about the UCP being generous, there is another figure we should keep in mind.
In December 2018, CSS had a total AISH client caseload of 61,555. Another 3 years later, in December 2021, that number was at 70,186. That’s an increase of 14.02%, or an average annual increase of 4.67%.
So, the 20% increase isn’t really a 20% increase when you consider that the number of people receiving that new $1.271 billion also went up.
Let’s look at this another way.
At 61,555 AISH recipients in 2018–2019, that $1.142 billion in funding would work out to about $18,553 per case.
Assuming last year’s caseload of 70,186 remains the same this year, then the 2022–2023 ASH budget of $1.371 billion would have a per case amount of $19,534.
That’s an increase of about $981, or 5.29% Over a 4-year period. And if this year’s caseload increases, then that amount will drop.
On a related note, Alberta’s consumer price index increased from 140.6 in 2018 to 149.3 in 2021, a 6.19% increase. And that’s not including any increases seen in 2022.
So, the per case bump of 5.29% isn’t even enough to cover inflation increases, which means AISH recipients will find it even harder to make ends meet than they did 4 years ago, even though, theoretically, they’re receiving more funding.