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Kendall Worth: How COVID-19 is affecting people on social assistance

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I am sure most of you are aware of how Nova Scotia is preparing for the COVID-19 virus. Health authorities tell us to wash your hands often, avoid crowds and keep your distance from others, don’t shake hands, and self-isolate if you are not feeling well.  

A couple of nights ago I met with a group of income assistance recipients who contacted me to talk about their worries for me to write about.

Anyway, the group I met with told me all about their personal feelings about everything from not having money to stock up on groceries, toilet paper and hand sanitizer through to how all this extra self-isolation is going to affect their mental health

They worry that yet another bomb of social isolation is going to hit income assistance recipients hard.

See also: Kendall Worth on the December blues 

They say that for them it feels much like the problems around recovering from day surgery during these times that they must self-isolate. It’s safe to say that 90% of income assistance recipients are not going to have people like family and friends who are going to be calling in and checking on them or coming to visit them.

Part of the public health warnings say, “this has to be a time when neighbours friends, family and acquaintances have to look after each other.”

However, in the world of people on income assistance that is not always possible.

Anyway, the other thing they were concerned about were rumors that were going around the community saying that in these upcoming days places like libraries may be closed. 

Well, those rumors were true. Just last night we were told that libraries made the difficult decision to close for the next three weeks at least! 

This person I wrote about earlier in this story, The long hard road of Career Seek for people on social assistance, made a valid point. 

Libraries are like another life line, the same as food banks and soup-kitchens for income assistance recipients. She made a point saying that in addition to those going through Career Seek, using a library as a place to study, it is also another place to go to that offers a free place to hang out and socialize. All at no cost. Others I talked to agree with this.

Let’s not forget also that many people on social assistance depend on the library for access to the internet! 

Income assistance recipients are also worried that in light of everything I mentioned above soup kitchens and food banks are going to end up changing how they deliver their services.

Also, I should mention that the young women I talked about in this story Kendal,l Worth: Huge rent increases leave three tenants scrambling for shelter, brought to my attention that the indoor pool and fitness centre where they go swimming and exercising is already limiting capacity to 150 people during this time. If things get worse, there are plans to close.

They love this fitness centre, because not only is it good for their health, but it provides them with another healthy activity they can all do together as friends. Going to the fitness centre at least 3 to 4 times a week gives them yet another activity that keeps them out of social isolation.

I will end this story by saying, because of everything that has been in the news lately about Nova Scotia preparing for this virus, we have to expect the unexpected at this time.

Let’s hope a miracle happens is what I will say! 

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

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.



  1. The government of Nova Scotia Does not care about people on income assistance Listen to them talk “we will help workers we will help business” but the minute we come up the bullshit starts they commit to nothing. There is no plan for us. We have no internet no cable and never enough to feed ourselves or pay our bills They make sure that they give us enough to pay rent that keeps us living in the worst parts of Halifax I am 63 living with cancer The number one response when we talk to our workers, is WE don’t make the rules politicians do. We have to fight for everything and even when we win it is always never what we need There is never enough money Until a politician wants something then hey guess what they found some for there needs their projects

    name and email witheld the last time I posted a comment they didn’t like it and all of a sudden my benefits got all screwed up

  2. Good comments, and your column Kendall made me stop and think…I’m hoping when the 63 yr old cancer patient (above comment) gets to 65, she’ll get more in pension than what she does on welfare. Best wishes in these terrible times.

  3. Hi there everyone! I’ve got a petition going to increase NS Income Assistance rates. A lot of us rely on IA as our only or primary source of income, and the current rates just aren’t livable, especially when you take into account Halifax’s average rental rates. This petition aims to get IA to match the COVID-19 Emergency Care Benefit. Please sign and share if you agree with what the petition is trying to accomplish, even if you aren’t on IA yourself.


  4. It is sad that I can’t even move cause I’m only allowed 870.00 a month and if special diet included a few dollars more. Rent for a 1 bedroom has jumped higher than ever in N. S. ..the covid hit everything sky rocketed in price. And all we got was a one time help in April of $50.00 that doesn’t do nothing. I live with cancer, tumid lupus, COPD, and other health issues. Its not right that disability and assistance people have to struggle to live. $11,000.00 a year to live of off not cool..

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