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Int’l Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Today, October 17, is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  The need for immediate action to address poverty cannot be ignored.

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become apparent that governments in Saskatchewan, Canada and internationally have a responsibility to address the needs of people living with low income.

As a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Canada and Saskatchewan are obligated to uphold its recommendations.

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Concluding Observations on Canada (March 23,2016)

The following recommendations are from the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ observations on the sixth periodic report on Canada’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“The Committee recommends the following actions to reduce poverty:

  1. Considering the advanced level of development of the State Party (Government of Canada), the Committee is concerned about the significant number of people living in poverty. It is further concerned that indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, single mothers, as well as minority groups continue to experience higher rates of poverty and at the limited effectiveness of measures taken to address this (article 11)
  1. The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary measures to combat poverty more effectively while paying particular attention to groups and individuals that are more vulnerable to poverty. The Committee recommends that the State party in collaboration with provinces, territories, and indigenous peoples and in consultation with civil society organizations, implement a human rights-based national anti-poverty strategy, which includes measureable goals and timelines as well as independent monitoring mechanisms. The Committee further recommends that the State party ensure that provinces and territories’ anti-poverty policies are human rights-based and aligned with the national strategy.”

Budget 2020: Appalling Frugality – new PFS publication

“The Saskatchewan provincial budget tabled on June 15, 2020 was most notable in its brevity and lack of foresight.”

In this article, Poverty Free Saskatchewan describes in detail the inappropriate frugality impacting the most vulnerable and the lack of contingency planning for a COVID-19 return and makes recommendations for future government action. (See full article budget_2020_PFS_web)

RECOMMENDATIONS

Poverty Free Saskatchewan recommends that the provincial government proceed to provide better social protection to the bottom half of income earners, including the following:

    1. The first immediate step the provincial government could, and should, take is to top up the federal child benefit – essentially a basic income for children – which would be a significant help to single parent families and the lowest income families. However, the Minister of Social Services would call this program stacking and has not implemented it.

An increase to the child benefit would create a modest boost in income for the small army of carers and volunteers – mostly women – whose contribution, as the epidemic has revealed, is critical to the functioning of society but greatly undervalued. By providing all citizens with much more choice over work, education, training, leisure and caring, it would also lay the foundation for greater personal empowerment and freedom. By establishing a baseline income, poverty and inequality would be reduced, universalism strengthened and means-testing lessened. Adopting such a scheme would of course require a wide political debate, but it would put down a marker for the kind of society which could emerge when the crisis subsides.

2. We support the changes to social service programs as stated in RAPM’s letter to the government

    • An increase of $300 per month to the basic allowance of all the department’s programs
    • A request to not claw back the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments
    • A request to retain the new joint federal-provincial rent subsidy that is being denied people on income assistance
    • An increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour

3. We encourage the government to upgrade its action plans on poverty and pass an anti-poverty act to provide a strong enforcement to plans to end poverty.

4. We strongly suggest that the government allocate a significant portion of the provincial $200 million pandemic plan to address the effects of COVID-19 on mental health, drug addiction, HIV prevention services, housing, and the education and training systems.

Action to address Covid-19’s impact on people living in poverty in Saskatchewan

Please contact your elected officials to address the impacts that the Covid-19 epidemic has had on people living in poverty. The Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry sent the letter below to Hon. Paul Merriman, Saskatchewan Minister of Social Services, outlining the many vital actions needed. Please support this effort by emailing, mailing or phoning your own thoughts on the importance of addressing these issues. Contact information for the Minister of Social Services and other MLAs is listed below.

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Dear Minister Paul Merriman

Things have changed in our communities since Canada and particularly the province of Saskatchewan has been hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. All people have been impacted by this virus and will for months, if not years, to come. Jobs will not be as accessible, and probably not as plentiful as before the pandemic.  We cannot condemn any person, whether working or on social assistance to impoverishment. Now is the time for a compassionate society, in which everyone’s basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, and utilities) are fully met. Therefore the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry (RAPM) is calling upon the Ministry of Social Services and the Government of Saskatchewan to:

1)     Immediately increase the basic allowance of people on all income assistance programs (SAP, TEA, SIS, and SAID) by $300.00 per month. For decades the benefit levels have been inadequate to meet the cost of basic needs on the provincial income assistance programs. This increase will still leave people living below the poverty line.

2)     During the COVID crisis we are asking that CERB be exempt from claw back on all provincial income assistance programs.

3)     People who received the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement (SRHS), and Supplementary Health (SSH) coverage still be allowed to receive these benefits.  We also ask that these benefits continue to be provided with no cuts after the pandemic is over.

4)     People on income assistance programs be allowed to be eligible for the new federal provincial housing supplement program. This will mean the removal of the restriction that will not allow people on income assistance programs from applying.

5)     Social services cover the actual cost of utilities for people on all income assistance programs (SAP, TEA, SIS, and SAID), during and after COVID. People need power, energy (Fuel) and water to survive. People do not have control over the cost of these utilities. In this day and age these utilities are considered essential to the health and wellbeing of all people.

6)     Within the next five years the Ministry of Social Services and the Government of Saskatchewan raise the benefit rates of SIS and SAID to cover the actual cost of food, clothing, shelter and utilities in our communities. Once these benefits are at a level that will cover the basic costs of these needs we ask that you index the benefits so no one on income assistance will ever suffer destitution again.

7)     The government of Saskatchewan raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15.00/hr., and then index it to ensure it remains a living wage.

8)     Enact an “Act To End Poverty In Saskatchewan” that ensures basic social and economic rights, including adequate income, housing, childcare and a living wage are afforded to all people in Saskatchewan.

PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT CONTACT INFORMATION

ALL REGULAR MAIL CAN BE ADDRESSED TO: 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina, SK, S4S 0B3

PREMIER SCOTT MOE: Honourable Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan, 306-787-9433 or premier@gov.sk.ca

NDP LEADER: Honourable Ryan Meili, 306-244-2280 or saskatoonmeewasin@ndpcaucus.sk.ca

MINISTER OF SOCIAL SERVICES: Honourable Paul Merriman, 306-787-3661 or ss.minister@gov.sk.ca

MINISTER OF LABOUR: Honourable Don Morgan, 306-787-5353 or jus.minister@gov.sk.ca

MINISTER OF FINANCE: Honourable Donna Harpauer, 306-787-6060 or minister.fi@gov.sk.ca

NDP SOCIAL SERVICES CRITIC: Honourable Nicole Rancourt, 306-763-4400 or princealbertnorthcote@ndpcaucus.sk.ca

Comparing provincial economic responses to COVID-19

Policy Note by  and  April 23, 2020. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. See full report at https://www.policynote.ca/provincial-responses-covid/

“All provinces have imposed moratoria on evictions, ensured child care capacity for essential workers and paused student loan payments. However, there are important differences across provinces that are highlighted by the COVID-19 economic responses.

Smaller provincial governments have much less fiscal capacity and typically higher pre-pandemic debt-to-GDP ratios. So it is no surprise they have largely left the economic response to the federal government, with only minor additional measures.

In some cases, such as Manitoba, ill-advised austerity is already underway with the provincial government seeking budget cuts in the public sector. This points to looming fiscal challenges for provinces as Canada emerges from the current moment with a larger collective debt load. Responding to this debt load with provincial austerity measures would be detrimental for the recovery and could severely undermine essential public services.”

SK govt. economic response to Covid-19: A day late and a dollar short

Provincial government economic response to Covid-19: A day late and a dollar short

In a health and economic crisis governments should put special effort into helping the most vulnerable populations. Has the Saskatchewan government followed this humanitarian guideline? Unfortunately, to date it has not.

Poverty Free Saskatchewan (PFS) is calling on the government to take immediate action to provide much better support for our vulnerable citizens, as in most cases federal government subsidies do not target these populations.

  • Saskatchewan Income Support benefits were miserably low going into the crisis and their buying power is even less in the difficult conditions created by the Covid-19 shut down. The Saskatchewan government should immediately top up all of its programs targeting vulnerable populations. British Columbia is providing an additional $300 per month for three months for those who cannot access the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit program.
  • Saskatchewan has not increased its minimum wage and it is the lowest in Canada. It’s time to support low paid frontline workers facing the daily the risk of Covid-19.
  • Saskatchewan has not significantly increased funding for food banks and other food security programs such as REACH and Carmichael Outreach. British Columbia has provided an additional three million dollars for its food banks.
  • Homeless centres require additional new spaces for the homeless to self-isolate. Sask.’s small increase in hotel and social housing units for the homeless is insufficient.
  • Saskatchewan has not topped up the Guaranteed Income Supplement received by seniors with the lowest income. British Columbia is paying those seniors an additional $300 per month for three months.
  • Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable northern communities require specialized and immediate support.

Contact the Hon. Paul Merriman (306) 787-3661 or email ss.minister@gov.sk.ca and let him know that it’s time for the government to step up and support our front line workers and vulnerable populations.

Covid crisis – salute to essential workers

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis we salute the health care, social work and other human service providers, food banks and volunteers who are working to address the needs of all people and especially those efforts assisting people living in poverty.

The Saskatchewan government has taken some steps, but there is much more that should be done.

Some government actions:  The federal government has implemented a number of initiatives over the last few weeks. Today a $400 per month top up to essential workers in senior-care facilities, licensed childcare facilities, group homes and emergency and transition shelters was announced – of the $56 million total cost in our province the Saskatchewan government is contributing $3 million. In other efforts, the Saskatchewan government has halted rental evictions based solely on people being behind in their rent. Hotel accommodation has been provided to homeless people who can’t access a shelter, although the uptake was greater than Social Services expected and criteria for this are getting more restrictive. People have to report less frequently to provide updated financial information before receiving their monthly income assistance benefit.  The Saskatchewan government also created a fund for small businesses to “borrow” from which theoretically could preserve some low wage earner jobs.

However … much more could be done.

Poverty in Saskatchewan – 2018

“96,000 of the 1.1 million people living in Saskatchewan in 2018 were poor. While poverty increased in 2017, it declined in 2018, following a long-term downward trend in poverty rates from 2006 to 2016. Most of the 2018 decline was among children, with little change in the number of poor non-elderly adults.

This report summarizes Saskatchewan poverty trends and patterns from 2006 to 2018 using the Official Poverty Line.”

“In August 2018 the federal government established an Official Poverty Line (OPL) for Canada. The Line is the Market Basket Measure – 2008 base (MBM), an income level below which a household does not have enough money to buy a specific basket of goods and services that allows it to meet its basic needs and
achieve a modest standard of living in its community.”

See full report here http://uregina.ca/~gingrich/skp2018.pdf or here skp2018

$547 Million to Eliminate Poverty in Saskatchewan

“Across Canada and in Saskatchewan a range of social programs provide financial help for those at low income – child benefits, tax credits, income for the elderly, and social assistance. These provide financial support beyond what individuals and families gain from their employment and other income. They help financially but in many cases are insufficient to prevent poverty.

This short report provides an estimate of the amount of increased financial assistance required to ensure that incomes of all Saskatchewan residents reach the poverty line. For the year 2017 we estimate the total cost for this to be $547 million. We first show summary data on poverty in Saskatchewan, provide an explanation of our estimate, and conclude with options for eliminating poverty. Methodological notes and references follow.”

See the full report by Paul Gingrich and David Rosenbluth here http://uregina.ca/~gingrich/547mep.pdf or here 547mep

Market Basket Measure – StatsCan consultation

Help us validate how we measure poverty

 Dear Sir/Madam,

Statistics Canada has launched a crowdsourcing initiative to validate how we measure poverty. We are seeking your support to increase awareness among your organization’s clients, supporters and stakeholders.

We’ve created a short questionnaire that allows Canadians to provide input on current estimates of how much money a family needs for items like food, clothing, shelter and transportation.

The questionnaire takes no more than five minutes to complete, and will be open to all Canadians from October 15, 2018, to January 31, 2019. Participation is anonymous and respondent information is protected by the Privacy Act.

To ensure strong participation rates, here are some ways to help us spread the word:

  • Add the attached image to your website and link to www.statcan.gc.ca/measuringpoverty
  • Inform your clients, supporters and stakeholders using the attached email
  • Follow us on social media and repost our content (a copy of our campaign is attached)

If you have questions, please reply directly to this email. statcan.market.basket.measure-mesure.du.panier.de.consommation.statcan(at)canada.ca

For more information on this initiative, please visit www.statcan.gc.ca/measuringpoverty.

Thank you in advance for supporting Statistics Canada’s ability to accurately measure low income and poverty.

Income Statistics Division – Market Basket Measure

statcan.market.basket.measure-mesure.du.panier.de.consommation.statcan(at)canada.ca

Statistics Canada / Government of Canada”