Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau;
I am writing you this letter today to congratulate you on all the work you have done handling the COVID-19 situation. I especially congratulate you on the packages you have introduced for the working people in this country. CERB and the wage subsidy for workers are both great steps in the right direction.
However with the above being said, there are gaps. Not everybody who needs help during COVID-19 is going to qualify for those packages. And what about people on income assistance or CPP disability? Here in Nova Scotia, where I live, income assistance for a single person without disabilities and who boards is only $508, and $850 for somebody who lives with disabilities and rents. CPP disability is equally tiny.
In a letter I wrote to the former Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean Yves Duclos, Hopefully your plan will go better than the plan in Nova Scotia, I pointed out what the system is like here in Nova Scotia. I also mentioned that I have heard from people in other provinces who tell me their system of income assistance is not much better then what we have here in Nova Scotia.
Specially I want to draw to your attention the following factors:
Here in Nova Scotia, in addition to the money not being enough to live on, our system of Employment Support and Income Assistance is:
- abusive toward clients, especially those who need help the most;
- full of bureaucratic nonsense and systemic problems;
- promotes that living life with social isolation is OK;
- causes ESIA clients to develop depression and anxiety while receiving income assistance;
- provides not enough money to live on;
- requires caseworkers to know too much personal information about you.
The $2000 a month that is being offered through the CERB is going to make it a lot easier for people to pay bills, eat, and keep up good hygiene. It is also a big jump from the tiny amounts people on income assistance receive here in Nova Scotia.
However the only income assistance recipients who are going to qualify for this are the ones who have part time jobs. So therefore the ones who do not work part-time are still going to suffer during COVID-19.
The other fear in the community is that people who will receive the $2000 a month from the CERB are being advised that after COVID-19 is all over and done with this money is going to be taxed.
Now I will agree that it is safe to say that down the road this money being taxed is to be expected. However, I must say that it would be nice, plus it would do a favour for people living in poverty, if this money was tax free.
Part of my reason for writing this letter to you today is because I have spoken with some people who have already been approved for the CERB who are scared about what type of surprise is coming to them down the road.
So Mr. Prime Minister, if you could announce something as to what to expect in terms of people having to pay a bit of this money back, that would be appreciated. Announcing something in advance would help people living in poverty prepare for that.
Yours sincerely, Kendall Worth
Kendall Worth is a tireless 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.