Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

THE RICH GET RICHER: SASKATCHEWAN’S 2017 BUDGET

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

Saskatchewan’s 2017 budget announced cuts to a number of income assistance programs including:

  • Financial assistance for people looking for work.
  • School supplies for children from low-income families.
  • Funeral services for poor people.

We are told our province’s dire financial situation—a $1.2 billion deficit—means we all have to tighten our belts. There do, however, seem to be some exceptions:

  • The corporate tax rate, reduced by one point, making it the lowest in the country.
  • Personal income tax rate, reduced for high income people.

The 2017 Saskatchewan budget makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is an attack on the most vulnerable people in our society. Is this the kind of province we want to live in?

THE POOR GET POORER

TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE

The provincial government is cutting the Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA) by $20 a month. This may not seem like much. However, it means a lot to some people:

  • A single person looking for work in Regina will now have to live on $563 a month, plus capped rates for utilities.
  • A single mother looking for work in Regina will now only receive $946 a month. Out of this she is expected to pay for housing, food, and clothing for herself and her children.

 The TEA program was already the least adequate of the income assistance programs. For this reason, the government expanded it so that more people are on it. Over the past few years it has grown from approximately 1,500 to 5,500 adult recipients.

FUNERAL COVERAGE

  • 160,000 people live below the poverty line in Saskatchewan.
  • Poor people have a shorter life expectancy than their wealthier neighbours. In Saskatchewan, there is a six-year gap between the wealthiest 20% of the population and poorest 20%. Cuts to funding for social programs will not help narrow that gap.
  • Now, the provincial government has cut what it will pay for the funeral services of people on social assistance from $3,850 to $2,800
  • The funeral coverage program is accessed approximately 400 times a year.
  • This dehumanizing cut is expected to save the government $400,000 annually.

 OTHER CUTS

The cuts to the TEA and funeral coverage have already been implemented. Other cuts, including the following, are still being considered as part of the provincial government’s “redesign” of income security.

HIGH CALORIE SPECIAL NEEDS DIETS

The provincial government is considering ending the $75 high calorie diet. This program has helped many with special dietary needs meet the most basic nutritional levels.

Health conditions that require a high calorie diet include cancer, HIV, burns, infections, malnutrition, and recovery from surgery or illness.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR CHILDREN

Equally nasty is the government’s planned cut of the annual grant for children’s school supplies for people on social assistance. Not only will this cut increase hardship for families, it will also act to further stigmatize children living in poverty.

This is the same government that gave corporations a $25.3 million gift, for this year alone, with its reduction of the corporate tax rate.

OVERPAYMENT RECOVERY RATES

The government is also planning to raise the monthly claw-back of benefits for those who have been deemed to have an overpayment.

  • A high proportion of recipients fall into this category.
  • Rarely is the overpayment the client’s fault.
  • Sometimes the client has a flexible income.
  • Sometimes the Ministry of Social Services makes an error.

WORKING FOR JUSTICE

The Wall government claims that the 2017 Social Services budget is the “largest ever.” However, it omits to say that this is the result of more people being on Social Assistance.

Even before any of the cuts came into effect, many people in Saskatchewan had to choose between paying the rent and buying food. Now, even more people are facing these harsh alternatives.

Stopping the cuts will not bring justice. There will still be many poor people in our province. But it would be a start.

For poverty to eliminated, wealth, opportunities, and privileges in our society would have to be much more equally distributed. Let’s make this our next project: eliminating poverty in Saskatchewan.

In the meantime, let’s work to reverse all the cuts to income assistance proposed in the 2017 Saskatchewan budget.

RING THOSE PHONES: REVERSE INCOME ASSISTANCE CUTS

Phone Premier Brad Wall (306-787-9433) and Minister of Social Services Tina Beaudry-Mellor (306-787-3661) and deliver the following message:

I am calling to ask that you reverse all the income assistance cuts proposed in the 2017 provincial budget. These cuts will only save the government $10 million, but they will create great hardship for the most vulnerable people in Saskatchewan.

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