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Expectant Mom With Ann Davis Society Hitting Government Red Tape

Chilliwack – Samantha Hilliard, an expectant mother with a partner on disability assistance who has renal kidney failure, has had the joy of expecting her first child seriously overshadowed when she found out that after working full time for three years, her earned EI maternity and parental benefits will be clawed back from her partner’s disability benefit. Instead of looking forward with joy to taking time to bond with her new baby while on maternity leave, she will see her family income drop from just over $3,000 per month to $1,300 per month, leaving them struggling to cover rent and other basic living expenses.

On conducting research, Ms. Hilliard found out from First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition that “over the past 12 months, the B.C. government clawed back $443,000 in EI maternity and parental benefits from 150 families. That’s an average of just under $3,000 per family. Most families on disability with children are living below the poverty line already. Calling earned EI benefits “unearned” income is patently unfair and the impact on children of plunging them into deeper poverty when their mother must take time off work puts their health and well-being at greater risk.”

Ms. Hilliard who works for a local organization, Ann Davis Transition Society, finds it appalling that the policy disproportionately discriminates against women, who are the only people who can give birth and claim maternity benefits. More than 90 per cent of parental benefits in B.C. were claimed by women last year. This is doubly troubling to Samantha who stated “I very much believe in what I do for a living. I go to work every day to make a positive difference for women and children and families. I work frontline helping others to learn how to help themselves and then find out that after working full time for three years I will be plunged into poverty myself due to outdated and discriminatory laws! This is 2016 and as a young woman about to start a family with my partner I want the ability to take time off of work to bond, and heal without it affecting my partner’s income. Most couples will have one person continue to work, generally speaking this is the male – I unfortunately do not have that option, and my partner makes only what he is granted through disability. To take this away dollar for dollar is an outrage, this causes stress to new Mothers, and a feeling of helplessness to the partners who are unable to work and will see their funds depleted due to a maternity leave taken by their expecting partners. I have worked every day and have earned a maternity leave, this should not and never should have been something that affects a partner on disability ability to provide for their family, the BC Government is punishing families! My partner is infuriated watching me scramble to save every dollar I can so that I can pay for my own Maternity Leave, while finances are already a huge stressor to most couples expanding into a family. This claw back has definitely affected the way I am feeling about my first pregnancy, it has impacted my health due to the stress of finances and effected my partner’s health by causing him so much stress. “

First Call reports that other layers of systemic discrimination are at work too. They explain that, “children in families with female wage-earners are already more likely to live in poverty than children in families with male wage-earners. Women make up 70 per cent of part-time workers and 60 per cent of minimum-wage earners. We also know that women workers in Canada earn an average of 67 cents for every dollar earned by men on an annual basis. Additionally, women with children earn about 12 per cent less per hour in Canada than childless women.”

On July 14 th at 11:00 am Samantha is meeting with John Martin, her MLA at his office and her employer Patti MacAhonic whose organization, Ann Davis Transition Society, is fully behind her in her bid to change the policy of clawing back EI maternity benefits and creating hardship for families with a partner with a disability. They are asking Christy Clark and the BC Liberal government to make necessary changes now to stop punishing families and discriminating against women.

For more information, contact: Patti MacAhonic or call 604-792- 2760 x 203.

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