KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Today’s provincial budget announces an increase to social assistance rates of $20.
Just now on the local CBC drive-home show premier Stephen McNeil called the increase historic, “the largest increase to social assistance ever.”
When you do the math, that boast quickly dissipates.
For instance, a single person on Income Assistance today typically receives a mere $617 per month. This includes a so-called personal allowance, a shelter allowance and two tax credits.
That’s for food, rent, transportation, medication, everything.
That $20.00 increase represents a 3.3 percent raise. With a projected cost of living increase of 1.5 percent this year alone that is quickly reduced to a real increase of just 1.8 percent.
Similarly, for a single person with disabilities, receiving a total amount of $832, the $20 after inflation correction represents only a 0.9 percent increase.
But never mind the math, put away your calculator, and look at it this way.
It’s only 20 bucks.
Meanwhile, shelter allowances, never adequate in the first place, have remained frozen since 2006.
Single people get $300 per month for rent. A single person who lives with disabilities gets $535.
If you could ever rent a decent place for that kind of money, you certainly can’t these days.
For people who depend on social assistance this $20.00 is like a drop in a bucket.
A report by FoodARC, a food research centre at Mount Saint Vincent University, looked at food insecurity in Nova Scotia.
That report established that a typical family of four, relying on income assistance, has only $92.00 per month left to spend on food, once shelter, clothing, and other necessities are taken care of.
As mentioned, a single person on income assistance currently receives $617 per month in total. That is almost $700 per month less than that person would need to cover the basics, the FoodARC report points out.
In either case, is that lousy $20 going to make a difference?
The situation is particularly horrific for welfare recipients who rely on special diet subsidies because of sickness or chronic disease.
Special diet benefits have not increased since 1998!
The FoodARC report refers to a pregnant woman on income assistance recieves a monthly Maternal Nutrition Allowance of $29.
What she really needs is an additional $500 to be able to afford a healthy diet, shelter and clothing, the FoodARC report clearly shows.
What she will receive in May is an additional $20.00.
Hardly a reason to celebrate.