Manitoba boosts rental allowance, introduces work program

Rental allowance is increasing in Manitoba after years of being stagnant and falling far behind the soaring costs of rent.
Manitoba is overhauling its rental allowance program and creating a new work experience program for low-income earners. (CBC)

Rental allowance is increasing in Manitoba after years of being stagnant and falling far behind the soaring costs of rent.

People on employment and income assistance (EIA) and living in private rental accommodations will receive increases of between $50 and $70 per month for shelter costs. That means single individuals, for example, will receive $435 per month, compared to the previous $365.

The announcement was made Thursday by Theresa Oswald, Manitoba's minister of jobs and the economy.

It is part of a larger overhaul to the rental allowance program. Oswald introduced Rent Assist, a new program for both social assistance recipients and other low-income earners, which will replace the current EIA shelter allowance and RentAid programs.

Repeating the government's promise made in the March 2014 provincial budget, Oswald said the rental allowance will increase over the next four years to 75 per cent of the average cost of renting a space (based on median market value).

David Northcott, executive director at Winnipeg Harvest, applauded the move, saying he sees too many people having to take money from their food budget to pay their rent.

"They (provincial government) made the promise. We've heard promises for years and years and years at Winnipeg Harvest, but the nice thing is there's some dollars attached to this and there's some support going through blue chip non-profit programs," he said.

A new Rent Assist calculator will be available on the Manitoba government website in July to help people determine if they are eligible for Rent Assist and their estimated benefit amount, Oswald said.

She also announced on Thursday the Manitoba Works! program, which links people with employers who need skilled workers.

Community-based organizations will provide work experience to some 250 EIA recipients and then help line them up with jobs.

The program is currently being piloted at four sites in the province including Opportunities for Employment, the Momentum Centre and Reaching E-Quality Employment Services in Winnipeg, and FireSpirit in northern Manitoba.

“Employers have told us that more skilled workers are necessary so they can expand and grow, while community advocates have told us that greater supports are necessary to help those in need,” said Oswald.

“Manitoba Works! and Rent Assist will help low-income Manitobans succeed at work and increase their income, while also helping Manitoba’s economy meet the growing demand for skilled workers.”