KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As we all know here in Halifax, we just got over a major storm. I talked about the storm and how it impacted poor people in this story here: Surviving Dorian while poor.
This is a follow-up story about the aftermath of the storm.
Ever since the power outages started income assistance recipients have been worried about how they are going to replace food they lost during the storm. Especially those of us whose power has been out 12 hours or longer.
A single income assistance recipient with disabilities only receives $810 (meaning $535 shelter allowance, and 275 personal allowance) and in many cases has less then $275 left after rent and power bill are paid.
Keeping in mind what the different things that income assistance clients lost actually cost in the grocery stores, this speaks volumes as to why income assistance recipients suffer following a storm with power outages.
Over the past couple of days I talked with many people who are on income assistance who told me that they had to throw out different items.
The following is a list of items they told me they had to throw out and how much roughly these items cost in the grocery store:
Cartons of milk and coffee cream cost between $3.00 to $7.00 a carton.
Ground beef range between $3.00 to $6.00 a pound.
Frozen microwave dinners Cost range between $3.00 to $6.00 a dinner/package.
These are just some of the main general staples you would find in any income assistance recipient’s freezer.
The above prices may seem cheap, however when you buy more than one package of each, the total cost adds up.
There were rumours going around the community saying that Community Services will be giving out food vouchers to people who lost food in their freezers during the storm.
This turns out to be true. We contacted Community Services about this and here is what their spokesperson Shannon Kerr had to say:
“Due to extended power outages in some areas, ESIA is providing emergency assistance for the month of September 2019 to ESIA recipients who have been without power for 48 hours or more, based on the following amounts: single $110; couple $140; each dependent $30. Emergency assistance amounts issued to clients in these circumstances are not set up as an overpayment (i.e. not recovered from future assistance). Recipients may be eligible for additional assistance for other items based on their individual circumstances, and should contact their caseworker to discuss their situation.”
Community Services Minister Kelly Regan told the CBC that you don’t need to prove that the power was out for 48 hours.
However, the response from Community Services and what clients are hearing directly from their caseworkers is different.
I heard of several clients who ended up having heated conversations with their caseworkers about getting access to those food vouchers and getting approved.
Many clients have been told their power had to be off for 48 hours in order to get approved for a food voucher.
And despite what the Minister told the CBC, some caseworkers have told their clients to give Nova Scotia Power permission for the caseworker to call and confirm that their power has been off for 48 hours, and only then will they approve a food voucher.
Clients have also been told that if they did get a food voucher it will come off as an over payment on their next income assistance check.
It is important that you know that what Community Services told us is the truth, and those caseworkers who tell you something different are wrong.
Anyway, 48 hours is too long, some food goes bad way before that and could be very dangerous to eat.
Nobody should be expected to eat food that has gone bad due to extended power outages.
Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
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