'Balanced on the backs of the poor': no increase in the provincial budget for social assistance
Donald Wood has been living on social assistance for three years. He said he spent his entire life working for farmers as a hired hand, but three years ago he had a heart attack. After his heart attack his health deteriorated and he wasn’t able to return back to work. Since then he has been living on social assistance.
"It's hard to budget, it really is,” said Donald Wood. “That's why you have to use resources like Carmichael or other resources available in the city to obtain food and clothing."
Wood said his monthly payment is $545. He said after he pays his rent of $500 he has $45 left to spare each month.
"We're always hoping for a better outcome of the budgets but that’s the way it is and we have to accept their presentation," said Wood.
On Wednesday the provincial government released their budget. There are increases to social services but social assistance amounts will stay the same.
"There's nothing here to help people pay their rent, and also meet other basic needs,” said Peter Gilmer, Anti-Poverty Ministry. “To the extent that this budget is balanced, it has been largely balanced on the backs of the poor."
"If our clients are experiencing any difficulties in their rental we want them to be able to utilize the assets that the government has already paid for and not subsidize rents in other areas," said Paul Merriman, Social Services Minister.
The government announced in its budget that it will be creating a new program that will help people get into the work force and become more self-sufficient. The program will be called Saskatchewan Income Support but details are yet to be announced.
The government is also increasing spending for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program. The program will see a $6.3 million boost which will help more people qualify for the program. The government is also increasing the income exemptions for those on the SAID program. Before people on SAID could only make $3,900 a year working part time before they would see their benefits cut back. The government has increased that number to $6000 a year for a single person. The changes to SAID will come into effect in the summer.
"This is something that we heard from a lot of community members that we wanted to make sure that we addressed and give them the opportunity to go earn some more money out there,” said Merrian. “We've also taken it not on a monthly basis but on an annualized basis."