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Briefly: June 15, 2012

Assistance changes Premier Christy Clark has launched the first pillar of her Families First Agenda: Supporting Vulnerable Families.

Assistance changes

Premier Christy Clark has launched the first pillar of her Families First Agenda: Supporting Vulnerable Families. Income and disability assistance programs have been modified, relaxing some regulations, but job search requirements have been extended.

“A good-paying and secure job is one of the most important contributions to a healthy, happy and strong family,” Clark said in a statement. “Our government is making balanced changes to remove barriers to employment for people who want to return to the workforce while providing adequate support for those most in need.”

New regulations permit some people on income assistance to earn $200 a month without having it clawed back by government. The change allows some clients to have part-time jobs while receiving benefits. It reverses a government policy that banned such income.

Individuals receiving disability assistance will be allowed to earn up to $800 per month and still receive full benefits. They will also be permitted to access more money from trust accounts.

For new income assistance applicants, the work search period is being extended to five weeks from three weeks. Returning clients will still be required to undergo a three-week work search before they are eligible to receive income assistance.

Clients with an immediate need for food, shelter or urgent medical attention will receive hardship assistance while still being required to undergo the three-week or five-week work search.

A supplement to assist low-income parents pay back-to-school costs will increase in July by $16 for children aged five to 11, to a total of $100, and $15 for children over 12, to $175.

As well, children of families on hardship will have access to dental services, allowing parents to take their children in for regular dental checkups.

Inland ferry

BC’s government announced the construction of a new ferry for the Upper Arrow Lake route this week. It has awarded a $26.5-million contract to WaterBridge Steel Inc. of Prince George to construct a new vessel for the 30-minute crossing between Shelter Bay and Galena Bay. The ship will be built in Nakusp and will provide employment opportunities for approximately 65 people for up to two years.

The new ferry will be drive-on, drive-off, open-decked and capable of transporting 80 cars and 250 passengers. It will have a larger vehicle and weight capacity and faster loading and unloading times, which eliminates the need for an auxiliary ferry during the peak travel season.

“This project will provide good jobs for skilled trades people in British Columbia,” said Blair Lekstrom, minister of transportation and infrastructure, in a statement. “The fact that a British Columbia company was the successful bidder in this competitive process shows that we do have the expertise here to design and build vessels to serve the travelling public.”

According to the provincial government, inland ferries are used on routes where lake or river crossings are a less costly alternative to building roads or bridges. The Upper Arrow Lake route reduces a car trip from Nelson to Revelstoke from eight hours to four hours.

In 2011, ferries on Upper Arrow Lake carried 218,658 automobile equivalents and 294,694 passengers.

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