pe-mi-valeriedocherty-apolo

Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty says no one who is eligible has been turned down for social assistance. (Province of PEI)

The P.E.I. government has cut available funding for social assistance benefits by $1.7 million for the coming year, after not spending as much as expected in 2013-14.

Last year government underspent its budget for social assistance $1.9 million.

Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty says no one who qualified for assistance was turned away. There simply wasn't the need.

Social assistance budget
2013-14 estimate $34.3M
2013-14 forecast $32.4M
2014-15 estimate $32.6M

"What we've done as a province is, obviously, done enough that Islanders didn't have to come to us for social assistance. They didn't need our money in order to live," said Docherty.

"I didn't leave money on the table, I didn't say no to anybody that was eligible for our programs. We just did not have the utilization."

pe-jamesaylward-leg

The government could be doing more to help people in need, says MLA James Aylward. (Province of PEI)

Opposition MLA James Aylward told CBC News he's having a hard time squaring that with what he's heard from Islanders in financial difficulty.

"People are living in substandard housing. They're not able to adequately feed their families in a lot of cases. They can't afford the medications that they may need," said Aylward.

"This minister is out of touch and thinks that just holding back $2.3 million from Islanders in need is OK."

Last year Docherty told CBC News social assistance rates are too low, but says now the extra money in the budget couldn't be used to increase rates. The government plans to start on a five-year plan to increase rates next year.

For mobile device users: Should the government be finding a way to spend all the money budgeted for social assistance?