The provincial budget unveiled yesterday is proposing to put $5.4 million toward increasing the basic rates of citizens living on social assistance. This amount is a far cry from what is needed to bring the income of these men, women and children to a level where they could meet their basic needs as measured by the Market Basket Measure, the poverty line.
It is interesting to note that the government cut the Wellness Program which had a budget of $5.4 million in 2019-2020, and by chance the proposed increase in the income security is exactly $5.4 million in this budget.
Some voices are saying that at least this amount would help people on social assistance and that it is better than nothing. We are saying, no, it is not better than nothing. With this measly increase, we are still keeping these citizens in deep poverty.
Let’s look at the reality of four category of citizens on social assistance. The situation is worse today than in 2014. All citizens on social assistance cannot meet their basic needs.
The single person considered employable, basic rate ($537/month) is the same today as in 2010. With inflation (18.85%), they should receive today $638.24/month. They have lost $101.24 a month of purchasing power. The total annual welfare income for the single person considered employable covers only 39% of their basic needs.
The single person with a disability basic rate ($663/month) is the same today as in 2014. With inflation (11.13%), they should receive today $736.79. They have lost $73.79 of their purchasing power. The total annual welfare income for the single persons with a disability covers only 54% of their basic needs.
The single parent with one child basic rate ($887/month) is the same today as in 2014. With inflation (11.13%), they should receive $985.72/month. They have lost $98.72/month. The total annual welfare income for the single parent with one child covers only 78% of their basic needs.
The couple with two children basic rate ($995/month) is the same today as in 2014. With inflation (11.13%), they should receive $1,105.74/month. They have lost $110.74 of their purchasing power. The total annual welfare income for the couple with two children covers only (73%) of their basic needs.
The proposed $5.4 million will certainly not bring them to the amount they should be receiving and they will still live in poverty.
We have to understand that all of the close to 36,000 individuals and families presently on social assistance are living below the poverty line.
In 2009 our province passed unanimously the Overcome Poverty Together legislation, a poverty reduction plan. Eleven years later, we still have thousands living in poverty and the proposed $5.4 million will not get them out of it.
Finally, there are some positive increases in this budget. The government is proposing to increase by $2 million the Support Services Program which included different health services and help to return in the labour market. It is also proposing an increase of $11.7 million for Disability Support Services and $18 million in other benefits which funds the Home Energy Assistance Program, Low Income Seniors’ Benefit, Child Tax Benefit and Working Income Supplement, and the Healthy Seniors’ Pilot Project.