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Government announces $4.5 million a year Opportunities Program

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Jacqueline Langen Photo

The government of Canada is pledging $4.5 million a year for the next three years to support people in the Lower Mainland with disabilities.

Vancouver South MP Wai Young made the announcement today at the BC Center for Ability on behalf of the Ministry of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Tories commit to skills development for persons with disabilities

“Canadians with disabilities have a tremendous amount to offer employers, but remain underrepresented,” said Young. “Economic Action Plan 2013 proposes ongoing and increased funding of $40-million per year, starting 2015-2016 for the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities.”

The federal government currently invests $30 million annually in the foundation.

The increased funding means over 500 Canadians with physical or mental disabilities will receive valuable employment skills through various education and work experience opportunities, said Young.

Participants will receive financial aid based on need for expenses such as tuition fees, transportation, childcare, adaptive equipment and in some cases living support.

“You’re doing more than just helping people to get a job, you are giving them the resources and encouragement that they need to cultivate their skills and strength so that they can succeed in the workforce,” said Young.

Program makes a difference in lives of Canadians 

The opportunities fund helped Jodie Gruninger support herself and her three young daughters. Gruninger attends Ridge Meadows College and will be graduating in 2014 with a special education teaching assistant degree.

She has been diagnosed with three illnesses in the past year including celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrom and fibromyalgia, a condition causing chronic pain and fatigue.

“Prior to the program I was pretty much just hitting my month-to-month,” said Gruninger. “Unfortunately I had some health concerns come up last month while I was in school and it was really difficult to tell my employer what was going on. I had nothing but support [from the program] and it’s been an amazing journey and experience,” she said.

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Speakers and program recipients pose in front of Action 2013 signs at the B.C. Centre for Ability Association. From left to right: Jodie Gruninger, Angela Kwok, Cheryl Bjarnason, Wai Young. Photo: Jacqueline Langen
It’s not free money

Angela Kwok, executive director of the BC Centre for Ability Association, said in order to receive funding, candidates must go through a rigorous and elaborate application process.

Applicants must provide documentation from certified bodies such as Work Safe BC and health care officials to verify their situations. Extensive reports are often required. Furthermore, participants receiving E.I. do not qualify for funding.

“People come to us with a very detailed file. We need to make sure that they really meet all the criteria for the subsidy and qualify for training,” said Kwok.

We need to know if they really need the support.”

Taxpayers federation on board

Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is in favour of allocating public funds to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities, but is skeptical of the program’s logistics.

“The devil is always in the details. We will need to see how the project rolls out,” he said.

“Most of us who pay taxes understand that there are less fortunate people who need to be helped out.”

In this podcast Wai Young announces the new Opportunities Program.

Reported by Jacqueline Langen

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