COVID-19 Updates: State of public health emergency declared.
Many Albertans are still familiarizing themselves with Budget 2021, which was introduced on February 25, 2021. With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the ways in which this year’s budget affects the programs and services my ministry provides.
Alberta Seniors Benefit maintained
In Budget 2021, we are maintaining seniors benefits for those most in need, ensuring vulnerable seniors can count on a stable source of income.
Alberta’s government is assessing the impacts on older adults who, due to the economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been left unemployed, have incurred increased costs, and who may have been forced to draw on retirement savings earlier than planned. In light of this, we are not making changes to the Alberta Seniors Benefit (ASB) program for new applicants – something we announced in last year’s provincial budget.
Keeping seniors safe during the pandemic
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to protect residents and staff in seniors’ lodges by ensuring they have the supports they need – extra staffing, cleaning materials, and personal protective equipment (PPE) – to stay healthier and safer. I want Albertans to know we will continue to ensure they have the support and resources they need.
In 2020-21, $30 million was provided to seniors’ lodges to help them meet COVID-19 health guidelines, and another $6.5 million for the Critical Worker Benefit. Budget 2021 includes a contingency amount of $1.25 billion to address COVID-19, and provide for health care and other spending needed to address the pandemic.
Boosting rental assistance
Many Albertans experienced difficulty and hardship last year as we adjusted to life in a pandemic and an economic downturn. It reinforced just how important it is for Albertans to have access to safe, stable, and affordable housing.
I am pleased to say Budget 2021 is injecting an additional $16 million into rental assistance so more Albertans who are in need of affordable housing can get it.
We have been reviewing Alberta’s rent supplement programs to ensure they meet the needs of Albertans in these difficult times, and to ensure we make the most of federal funding. We are putting the finishing touches on this program review, and I will have more to say about it in the coming months.
Affordable housing system transformation underway
Work is underway on a strategic plan outlining a vision for the provincial affordable housing system, including a real estate asset management plan. The plan will map out how we will act on the Affordable Housing Review Panel’s recommendations, to ensure the system’s ability to respond to the needs of Albertans, and ensure its financial sustainability.
Alberta’s government is committed to transforming the affordable housing system to enable more flexible, fair and inclusive housing options that meet Albertans’ needs now, and in the future.
Honouring existing capital commitments
Seniors and Housing’s Capital Plan 2021 allocates $238 million over 3 years to:
- provide 1,800 new and regenerated affordable housing units for seniors, families and supportive living
- create more than 1,700 jobs
- maintain the provincially-owned 26,700-unit affordable housing portfolio
We completed 1,200 affordable housing units over the past 2 years. This important work continued with minimal disruption throughout 2020, despite the numerous challenges posed by COVID-19. While no unallocated funding is available for new projects in Budget 2021, our government continues to honour existing capital commitments.
For more information on Budget 2021, I encourage you to visit the Budget 2021 section of alberta.ca.