For over 25 years, the Common Front for Social Justice has been leading anti-poverty campaigns to improve the working and living conditions of New Brunswickers, including the increase of social assistance rates.
More than 20,000 people are on social assistance and the majority of them live alone. Monthly social assistance rates are low, ranging from $593 to $732 for a single person. The 2020 annual Market Basket Measure threshold for a single person living in rural New Brunswick was $20,983. The monthly rate of $593 is equivalent to $7,814 per year (including federal and provincial tax credits and benefits), or less than 33% of the income needed to cover basic needs. This extreme poverty is abhorrent.
What should the government do? Here are some of our demands:
- Raise the social assistance rates immediately, across all categories, to reach the highest Market Basket Measure for New Brunswick (for a single person: $22,606).
- Every following year, there should be an additional increase of 2% above the inflation adjustments already promised.
- Abolish the Household Income Policy – this policy impacts who can qualify for receiving social assistance. People living in the same household, with the exception of roommates, are considered an economic unit for the purpose of determining eligibility for social assistance. This policy discriminates against many people in need, particularly people with disabilities.
The total annual cost of increasing rates for single people with and without disabilities to reach the annual poverty line would be just over $185 million, given that there are only 14,569 recipients in both categories of social assistance in 2021. The government has been running budget surpluses in recent years. The announcement of a record surplus of $777 million for the year 2021-2022 has caused a stir across the province! It is time for the government to invest in the social assistance program.
The Common Front and the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities are marking Human Rights Day with a press conference on their campaign to improve social assistance on Monday, December 12 at 10am on Zoom. There will be speeches and testimonials from social assistance recipients. Info: frontnb.ca or email@example.com.
Janelle LeBlanc is the Provincial Coordinator for the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice.