↗ Food rates for people receiving Social Assistance will be increased by 10% in June 2009. This is a budgetary increase of nearly half a million dollars. Social Assistance shelter rates were increased by 1% in April 2008 and will be further increased by 5% in June 2009.
↗ Rates for clients in community care facilities had their subsidized per diem increased by $5/day in July 2008. (Over the past three years, this daily rate has increased by 22%.)
→ The Social Assistance Healthy Child Allowance has increased $3 per child per month, tied to the increase in the National Child Benefit which is now indexed to the Consumer Price Index. However, this amount will make little difference in most families’ budgets and still does not compensate for the provincial clawback of the Child Tax Benefit.
→ PEI has decided to exempt income from the federal Working Income Tax Benefit from any Social Services income-tested programs, to ensure the intended benefit of this program is maximized. However, two other provinces and one territory have already enhanced this program, and PEI would do well to do the same.
↘ There have been increases to social assistance rates, but our rating has not increased over last year. Why? The standard has not been met: PEI’s people living on social assistance will still not be able to meet their basic needs on the amounts allocated by government. Not enough is still not enough. The 10% increase in food rate is significant, and it is an important public policy measure that may take some pressure off community charity responses to poverty such as food banks and soup kitchens. But it is shocking to us that this long-overdue increase in food rates for some of our province’s most vulnerable citizens was so hard to achieve when the amount required, just half a million dollars, is comparatively small.
↘ There has been no action towards the promised Poverty Reduction Strategy to consider how we are doing across the province and across departments to assist people who live in poverty. There is no political will to name the problem of poverty and to provide poverty reduction initiatives. The full-time position in government that is meant to be dedicated to Poverty Reduction has been vacant for over a year. It is clear that to address poverty in this province all of government’s leadership must be on board, and all departments must play a part and work together.
This is an excerpt from the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women 2009 Equality Report Card for PEI, released in June 2009 and based on information updated to May 30, 2009.