PEI

Increases to P.E.I. social assistance rates coming in new year

There will be an increase to social assistance rates on P.E.I. in the new year. The increase comes from changes for food allowances.

Nearly 50% increase for single person

Up until now, those on social assistance got specific allowances for food, clothing, household items and personal goods, says Minister of Social Development Ernie Hudson. (Ken Linton/CBC)

There will be an increase to social assistance rates on P.E.I. in the new year with changes for food allowances.

A single person will see their food allowance increase by nearly 50 per cent, going from $233 a month to $342. A couple will get an extra $173 and for every child, another $34.

Up until now, those on social assistance got specific allowances for food, clothing, household items and personal goods, said Minister of Social Development Ernie Hudson.

"When you had it broken down, but it was four different categories, there would be the feeling that, by a client, that [they] can only spend so much on a certain item whether it was clothing, whether it was food," Hudson said.

What that does is recognize that people on social assistance are not just back waiting for a cheque to arrive.— Green MLA Hannah Bell

Next month, those on social assistance will get one lump sum, he said.

"From month to month, time to time, individual situation to individual situation, that there is that discretion that is required," Hudson said.

Islanders will see changes on their payments Jan. 8, 2020.

The increase was a joint announcement from the government and Official Opposition early Monday afternoon.

'Putting food on the table'

The Green Party has been pushing for major increases to social assistance rates for years.

Hannah Bell, Opposition critic for social development and housing, said she feels "joyful" the increase is coming.

Opposition social development and housing critic Hannah Bell says there are about 5,000 Islanders on social assistance. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"It sounds very dry when you talk about numbers on a page, but this is about putting food on the table for Islanders across the province," she said.

Bell said people who are on the program are on it because they desperately need help.

"This has always been about providing Islanders in need with the security and dignity of enough to eat," she said.

Lump sum

Bell said there are about 5,000 Islanders on social assistance and there's more to do, but "this is an incredible start."

Bell said under the previous version of the program, those on social assistance were allowed $19 a month to spend on personal hygiene supplies.

"If we can move to a lump sum benefit for basic needs, what that does is recognize that people on social assistance are not just back waiting for a cheque to arrive," she said.

Bell said people on social assistance are not living a luxurious life and the program is about meeting basic needs.

"A basic allowance says, 'Here is enough money to meet those basic necessities and you have the right and the dignity to choose how you spend that.'"

More P.E.I. news

With files from Nicole Williams

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