Friday, 27 April 2018
featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: A wrinkle in the free bus pass plan

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Some people on income assistance who are currently receiving either $78 for a bus pass, or a smaller amount for bus tickets, fear that the free bus passes becoming available in the spring will mean that they will have even less money than before.

Don’t’ get me wrong. Free bus passes are a good thing. I do agree that there is a strong need for all income assistance recipients, and anyone living in poverty for that matter, to have access to free bus passes. I know quite a few people who are excited about the free bus passes becoming available.

But for some it will mean $78 less each month for groceries and rent.

You can argue that bus pass money is for bus passes. But it is a fact of life that people on income assistance have been using their bus pass money to pay for things like rent, groceries, power and phone bills, and other necessities. You do what you can to survive.

It’s like the shelter allowance is $535 per month, but rents anywhere are much higher, so people are dipping into their personal allowance to pay for their apartment. Community Services doesn’t complain that isn’t what a personal allowance is supposed to be for.

And things are getting more expensive, and income assistance isn’t keeping pace

People tell me that now when they go to the grocery store, their grocery bill at the cash register is coming to anywhere from $15 to $40 more expensive for the exact amount of groceries as always not that long ago. Rents and power bills also keep going up.

I am hearing that this issue of bus pass money being taken away is creating a lot of anxiety among people on income assistance who are now receiving it.

The reality is that when any part of the allowance of income assistance recipients gets cut or suspended, it causes the Income Assistance recipient to live their lives with more anxiety. But their clients’ anxiety is something that the department tends to ignore.

According to some I have discussed this with it would be good if the department agrees to allow keeping that $78 on their cheques to pay for other needs.  

Kendall Worth is a tireless anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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  1. I’m one of those who’ve been compelled to use my transportation allowance to help pay for electricity and other basic needs, which are barely being met. I have to visit a foodbank every month, or go hungry. My doctor tells me it’s important to eat well to maintain my health, especially for a person living with HIV. I cannot afford to ‘eat well’, simple as that, even with the so-called ‘special diet’ allowance.

    If Community Services deducts $78 from my monthly cheque, that will seriously hurt me, adding to the daily stress and hardship I’m already going through. There goes my internet connection I guess, since I won’t be able to pay for that anymore. It’s really sad, I/we shouldn’t have to be constantly fighting with Community Services just to keep the meagre assistance that I do receive. And it sucks living in fear every month of having your only means of limited income slashed by a ruthless, heartless system.

    We all need a basic income, a humane income that will enable and uplift people, instead of this cruel and degrading welfare system that keeps people living in poverty, hunger and fear.

  2. My rent is 985 each month. Assistance covers rent. Family allowance goes to bills. Whatever is left is usually about 250$- is groceries, medication, transportation, whatever. For two adults and two kids, for an entire month.
    It’s better since we moved to Halifax and found work but frustrating because we don’t make very much and what we do make is penalized because you can keep 100$ then they take 75% of the rest. We’re still so far below the poverty line, it’s stupid.


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