B.C. advocates rally for increase to income-assistance rates

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      Once Downtown Eastside resident Christine Mcadam pays her rent, she’s left with a budget of $200 for the rest of the month.

      It’s an amount that she has found “impossible” to live on, since she quit her part-time job two months ago for health reasons and began receiving income assistance.

      The tight budget means that even expenses like bus fare to get to job interviews are unaffordable, she said.

      “It’s impossible to try and get ahead,” Mcadam told the Straight in an interview as she pushed a cart of empty bottles she’d collected.

      Mcadam made the comments during a march along East Hastings Street Tuesday (March 31)—part of a weeklong series of actions urging an increase to B.C.’s income-assistance rates.

      Bill Hopwood, an organizer with Raise the Rates, said the actions were timed to mark eight years since welfare rates were increased, on April 1, 2007. In B.C., a single person expected to work earns $610 a month, while a single person on disability earns $906.

      “Nobody else in the province has waited eight years without getting any increase in pay,” said Hopwood.

      The provincial government recently announced a change to the income and disability assistance program to allow single parents to stay on assistance for up to a year while they train for a new job.

      Under the initiative, 16,000 single parents receiving assistance will also have costs covered during training, including childcare and transportation to and from school, according to a March 11 government news release.

      Hopwood and other advocates argue a broader change is needed. According to Trish Garner of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, B.C. has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada, with one in 10 residents living in poverty.

      “I can’t believe we’re still here, still fighting for a raise after eight long years,” she said as the march concluded outside Canada Place.

      “Six hundred and ten was inadequate then—it’s totally, completely inadequate now.”

      According to Garner, more than 170,000 people in B.C. are living on welfare or disability assistance.

      “Over 170,000 people in this deep, deep poverty, not able to afford food and rent and other basic needs,” she said. “We’re now the very last province to have no poverty-reduction plan.”

      Downtown Eastside resident Tracey Morrison, who is on disability, was also among the march participants Tuesday. She noted that she recently waited an hour and a half on the phone to make a request for a $20 crisis supplement for people on income assistance.

      When she was asked to give a reason for her request, Morrison responded: “because I’m hungry”.

      “The guy said that’s not a good enough reason,” she said in an interview as the march paused at Victory Square. “It just made me want to cry because being hungry wasn’t good enough to get $20.”

      Hopwood said the group wants to see regular welfare rates increased to $1,500 a month, and for people on disability to receive $1,800 monthly. Raise the Rates is also backing the campaign for a $15 minimum wage in B.C.

      “If you look at the cost of poverty, tackling this would save money in the long-term, in terms of health costs, criminal justice costs, [and] education costs,” said Hopwood.

      Comments

      17 Comments

      Dianne

      Apr 1, 2015 at 1:01pm

      Unacceptable that we treat people that need and deserve dignity and support in our province with such cruelty.

      We need to scream and protest to get this government to reconsider its budget priorities. And the NDP needs to make this a priority too!

      There's not one acceptable reason that explains why we expect people to starve/live on the streets/in shameful conditions all the while BC boasts we have a surplus!

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      Person on Disability

      Apr 1, 2015 at 2:12pm

      Well, Dianne, I don't know. I'm pretty worthless. I don't intend to have children, and I am too sick to work. I don't have a partner, I don't believe in having pets. In general, I think I am pretty much expendable. Now, to be honest, before I was disabled, I don't remember having felt this way, but, you know, at this point I don't think it's delusional, just the truth. I am not costing the healthcare system a lot of money, so, you know, giving me extra money isn't going to be a "win win." Sure, I'd be able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day, and maybe then I'd see life as something enjoyable, find a partner, maybe even get healthy enough to work. Then the risk is that I'd create more children that have a statistically higher chance of being disabled. So, tho it can't be said, the starvation rations serve a purpose: they prevent the disabled from reproducing. I mean, I would not want to subject a child to a life of poverty with a disabled father---that is pretty much what I had to grow up with, tho not really in poverty.

      I don't doubt that it would save money in the long run, but our society doesn't think long term---it thinks on a quarterly basis, maybe yearly with governmental budgets. So, if the Government gave me more money, sure, I'd take it, but I don't know that there aren't acceptable reasons why I should starve and live in poverty. I mean, I'm disabled, I can't pull my own weight, so why should anyone else do it for me?

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      Barry William Teske

      Apr 2, 2015 at 4:18am

      Poverty is a business model.
      Follow the money.

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      Corporate Welfare

      Apr 2, 2015 at 7:48am

      What? How dare you even think that citizens in poverty ought to get a bit more money.

      Don't you know the Politicians have priorities like massive Corporatew Welfare e.g. LNG and P3 Partnerships.

      P3 is the much vaunted strategy of paying massive amounts of Corporate Welfare for Private Corporations to profit from building infrastructure like Bridges.

      Than paying said Private Corporation gets a contract for 30 or 50 years to profit from the Tolls.

      Or massive Corporate Welfare projects like Site C to provide massive sunsidized power to yes Corporations.

      Than when public outcry becomes an embarrasment for the Government as in the case of Free Water being taken by massive multi nationals which do $30 Billion + a year in revenue.

      Than the Government charges them $600 per Year to take all that BC Water to ensure their profits are maximised!

      How dare we the citizens ask for a livable Social Safety Net!

      Regardless of the simnple fact that people on Income Assistance spend all of their money locally supporting the local economy!

      How dare we even think that Government ought to be responsible for helping those in poverty!

      Don't we get it? Government is there for the Corporations and their Welfare NOT us!!!

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      Unknown1

      Apr 2, 2015 at 9:11am

      Well lets see, poverty isn't a B.C. problem, it is a world wide problem, in fact people in B.C. are PRIVILAGED! to have a safety net provided by the government. You talk about hardships and disability? How about those people who have to work regardless of their "disability" because they are not privileged enough for their government to give out social assistance (about 90% of countries in the world or 88% of the world's population). At what cost will it take to increase welfare rates? Lower Education budget? Medical? Increase taxes? Take your pick. Strangle the hard working yet dwindling middle class why don't we...

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      nutsnbolts

      Apr 2, 2015 at 5:14pm

      Corporate pigs and corporate governments who serve them and that we pay for, are stealing everything we own and every nickel we have and it will continue until Agenda 21 finishes off 7 1/2 billion people on this planet. The many war threats, especially by Obomber and Harpo, Putin and China will help the N W O accomplish their evil plan which had already started even prior to 2008.

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      Theresa Leigh

      Apr 2, 2015 at 6:58pm

      My husband and I are on income assistance,and partly cpp! My husband is disabled and I have limited mobility! We are not doing very well! The anxiety and depression I suffer from is ruining my life! I have no way of earning extra income! I fear for my husband's health due to lack of nutrition and poverty certainly isn't helping me either! I have anxiety attacks every day worrying if we can eat let alone pay rent! We have no cable t.v. only phone and WiFi so I can communicate with the world! Please help or I fear I will continue to see my health deteriorate rapidly! I'm not happy to be begging for my life!

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      Anonymous

      Apr 3, 2015 at 2:28pm

      Working should pay more than welfare! Minimum wage full time less taxes is just over $1200, why would anyone on welfare get a job if they get the same on assistance!

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      SAINT LONER

      Apr 5, 2015 at 12:29am

      look at any other nation as rich as canada like germany or fuck australia, they give double the amount for welfare. everybody who is poor at least has their basic needs met.

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      BC taxpayer

      Apr 6, 2015 at 2:25am

      Though I agree with raising rates, $1500 for a regular welfare recipient U.S. plain nuts.

      Raise it to $1000.

      Disability however I agree. Raise it to $1800 with an $800 income exemption.

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