Between the Motions: AMS council approves health and dental fee increase, talks COVID support

Last night’s AMS Council meeting was held on a shorter-than-usual video conference.

Councillors sped through discussion of the health and dental plan and how the AMS is responding to COVID-19.

Health and dental plan fee increased

The Health and Dental committee proposed both a two-year extension to the AMS’s contract with Studentcare as well as a three per cent increase to the health and dental fee levied on students.

AMS VP Finance Lucia Liang explained that extending the contract for two years rather than one would avoid potential instability with changing service providers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also said that a fee increase happens annually — in 2019/20, the fee was $256.92, though last year’s fee increase was five per cent.

“As a result to ensure that the AMS has enough money to administer the health and dental plan, we need to increase the fee by three per cent,” she said.

After Senate representative Alex Gonzalez pointed out that the contract councillors received was incomplete and missing appendices, Council debated tabling the motion until the full contract was available. Board of Governors representative Max Holmes echoed the sentiment.

“Generally bad governance to approve something when you don’t have all the materials but oh well,” Holmes wrote in the chat.

AMS President Chris Hakim couldn’t confirm that the contract would be available by next week for an email vote.

“We’re not sure if we do or do not [have access to the agreement],” he said. “We’ll look to see if anybody has access to it.”

The fee increase was ultimately approved given deadlines to collect the fee in May, but the contract extension was tabled.

COVID-19 continues

Liang also announced that she and AMS Managing Director Keith Hester “were able to locate $280,000 to support COVID this year.” She didn’t specify where this money came from.

She added that she would be meeting with the university to decide how to distribute the money.

“Since the AMS does not have the manpower to facilitate the disbursement of this money, it plays the best interest for our students to give that money to UBC to administer,” she said.

Liang also addressed “backlash” from a fiery post on UBC Confessions alleging that AMS Events wasn’t fully refunding students after Block Party was cancelled. She explained that Showpass customer service had incorrectly told a student that the AMS had the choice to not refund Showpass fees, but the company has since issued an apology.

Liang maintained that the AMS had refunded Showpass fees to students.

AMS VP External Cristina Ilnitchi said that a group of student governments sent a letter to the government asking for improved COVID-19 benefits for students. According to the results of a recent AMS survey, only 30 per cent of respondents said they were eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Ilnitchi further discussed negotiations with TransLink to temporarily suspend U-Pass effective May 1. She said that the refund process for students is still being developed and encouraged students not to use their U-Pass unless necessary.

The AMS will be reviewing the suspension monthly over the summer.

“On a school by school basis, we’re going to decide when to come back online,” she said.