Media release Poverty

News release: Anti-poverty group calls increases to Income Assistance a “Drop in the Bucket”

For Immediate Release December 31, 2020

Halifax – Anti-poverty advocates are deeply disappointed with the Province’s announcement of so-called “increases” to Income Assistance rates. 

Effective January 1, 2020, the Department of Community Services is raising Income Assistance rates for all clients by two percent. It is also raising by five percent the rates for single people who own or rent their home and who face some other significant barrier to employment. 

Advocates are disappointed because these “increases” are the culmination of a five-year process of Income Assistance reform, called “Transformation”. “Transformation” failed because the Province has both refused to address the basic inadequacy of Income Assistance rates and to index rates to inflation. Calculations by human rights lawyer, Vince Calderhead, have shown that the real world value of Income Assistance will be lower in 2020 than it was in 2014.” 

“Income Assistance simply does not provide people with enough money to live healthy, dignified lives,” says Mark Culligan, a Community Legal Worker at the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service. “Income Assistance recipients in Nova Scotia are required to live on incomes that fall far below the poverty line, even when other government benefits are factored into their budgets. As a result, many Income Assistance recipients struggle to eat, to heat their homes, and to find adequate housing.” 

Jodi Brown, a former income assistance recipient and member of the Benefits Reform Action Group, says that “Nova Scotia’s Income Assistance program is not keeping pace with the rising costs of living. The Department’s current increases are but a drop in the bucket. It should not surprise anyone, that Nova Scotia was the only Province in Canada to see increases in the child poverty rate. The Benefit’s Reform Action Group is calling for a real transformation of the Income Assistance program, one that ensures that everyone is brought above the poverty line.” 

For more information contact: Mark Culligan, Dalhousie Legal Aid Service, Email: mark.culligan@dal.ca

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