The provincial government is cutting cheques for many Manitobans impacted by the rising cost of living, but some local organizations are saying it is not enough to help people who are living in poverty.
Last week, Premier Heather Stefanson unveiled an $87-million Family Affordability Package to immediately provide families with children, seniors living on a fixed income, and Manitobans who are hurting the most, with benefits to help ease the burden of rising costs and high inflation.
But Audrey Harder, executive director of the Pat Porter Active Living Centre, says a one-time payment of $300 for low-income seniors will only provide temporary relief.
“It’s more of a short-term solution for what we're currently experiencing,” she says. “I think as far as seniors, it’s already tough enough to live. They're on a very fixed income and then to just give them this little bit... Okay, it's a little bit of a boost, which would be great for that month, or that time, but then what happens after?”
Harder says it would make more sense to provide affordable transportation to allow seniors to afford the cost of getting to medical appointments, the grocery store, and other important destinations.
The Family Affordability Package also includes a monthly increase of $50 for people who are receiving Employment Income Assistance (EIA), without dependent children.
“They're severely underfunded,” she says. “An individual who's on general EIA has to live off of $773 a month, which is not very much. I don't know about you, but I couldn't pay my bills on that. So, it really does need to increase.”
As for EIA disability clients, they will receive an additional $25 per household each month.
Jeannette DeLong, Executive Director of enVision, says most of the people they serve would fall into that category.
“It’s long overdue that there is some addressing of the amount of money that people are getting per month,” she says. “However, we would certainly have hoped that the government would have seen that $25 a month per household, this is not per person, is woefully inadequate for people to be living in this environment where inflation has really impacted everybody. Certainly it has impacted people who are living in poverty in much bigger ways.”
DeLong adds that “people every day have to decide what they will go without.”
An estimated 145,000 families with approximately 282,000 children will benefit from the announcement with an average cheque of approximately $440 per family, totalling $63 million in benefits.
Steinbach Family Resource Centre supports many families with low income, with children, who will receive this support.
“Often supporting young children has a very real impact on a caregiver's ability to work, and children also add critical expenses to often already very tight budgets,” says Jo-Anne Dalton, Executive Director at SFRC. “This additional one-time families funding will be a temporary relief for many families that we connect with regularly. The increase to general income assistance will also make a difference.”
Dalton notes they see the need for increased support to help caregivers feed their children.
“We have diversified our resources at our Centre in the last few years to meet more of the essential needs of food and household goods, clothing and baby essentials, but financial support is critical to overcoming barriers to health,” she adds.
Manitoba families with children and a household income of less than $175,000 in 2021 will receive a Family Affordability benefit cheque of $250 for the first child and $200 for each additional child.
While the increased support for low-income families is not disputed by Harder, Kroeker and DeLong, the three of them do question the "$175,000” household income as the cut-off mark for support payments.
“That’s a completely different group of people benefiting from this handout from the province than people who are living in poverty,” DeLong says. “And so that's concerning for us, just the priorities of government and the priorities of the policymakers. I just worry about the level of disconnection that the province has with citizens of Manitoba who are truly struggling.”