Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg - Manitoba Liberals are calling on the PCs to immediately increase the basic Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) allowance to ensure families on social assistance can make it to the end of the month without going hungry.
Inflation is driving up the cost of food, and the cost of housing is going up - but social assistance rates in Manitoba are so low that some of the most vulnerable people in Manitoba aren't able to put food on the table.
Winnipeg Harvest reports that between 2018-2019, 73,500 Manitobans collected EIA - including families, people who can't work due to illness, injury or disability.
The report showed that nearly 80,000 people in Manitoba, in 325 communities, rely on food banks for food assistance, and that nearly half - 46% - are children. 83% of food bank users said they faced challenges working because of an illness or disability.
"This was an issue long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has shone a light on the issue of poverty in Manitoba, and has made the situation much worse," said Jon Gerrard, Manitoba Liberal MLA for River Heights. "We know that people don't have enough to pay for medication, for groceries. We have to step up in Manitobans' time of need."
Manitoba Liberal MLAs Dougald Lamont, Jon Gerrard and Cindy Lamoureux, wrote to Families Minister Rochelle Squires asking her to address three key issues:
1. Increase in the basic allowance for individuals on EIA 2. Increase the amount that an individual on EIA can get from their volunteer work 3. Increase the amount that an individual on EIA can earn without the money being clawed back to a level of $400.
Currently, the maximum that an individual on EIA can receive for volunteering is $100 a month. If they earn more, it will be clawed back, or they can lose their benefits entirely. Manitoba Liberals are asking that the government increase this to $400 a month.
Increasing the amount an individual can earn without being clawed back would also encourage more individuals on EIA to work, and would also give them the ability to improve their financial circumstances to get back on their feet.
"In the last 30 years, the Premier's salary went from $72,000 to $173,000, while EIA rates have largely been frozen. How is a person with a disability supposed to live on $12,650 a year? How can anyone be expected to live on $9,252 a year? This is what's called 'forced poverty' - the Manitoba Government is denying people even the ability to care for themselves. This has to change," said Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface.
Manitoba Liberals have long supported EIA reforms, with the goal of lifting people out of poverty and supporting self-reliance. That includes replacing EIA with a choice between mincome plan, and paid work programs.
"No government in Canada has treated people living in poverty worse than the Government of Manitoba, and we all pay more for it because that suffering has real costs in lost health, lost opportunity and lost hope," said Lamont. "Making sure that citizens can feed themselves is an absolutely core requirement of government, and we need it now more than ever."