“It’s a complete, horrible insult to the poorest of the poor,” said Dave Jaffe, a senior who used to be on disability, about the NDP’s platform announcement that they’ll raise welfare by a mere $20 a month. The proposed rate increase for single employable people would be about $45 below the cost of living increase since the last welfare rate increase in 2007.
“It’s not right at all,” said Sandra Pronteau, a woman on disability. ”$20 is insane. Why can’t they be realistic and put the needs of the people first? It’s like we’re being punished.” People on disability won’t get any increase, according to the NDP platform statement.
The total $630 a month welfare rate won’t be enough to allow single people on welfare to both rent a cheap place to live and buy nutritious food. According to the BC Dietitians 2011 report, the minimum cost of rent and nutritious food for a single person is $950, not counting bus fare, telephone, and other necessities. The current welfare rate for a single person is $610 a month.
The NDP announcement also said if the NDP is elected it will give low income children about $70 a month more, but there was no increase at all for people with disabilities who subsist on a mere $906 a month, compared to $1588 in Alberta.
The NDP also said it would index welfare benefits to the cost of living. While this could be a good idea, if the benefits are too low to survive on in the first place, the indexing will only perpetuate desperation.
“This paltry increase won’t reduce my anxiety about voting NDP,” said Tami Starlight, who is on disability.
“It’s completely insignificant,” said Herb Varley. “For me the earning exemption of $400 will help but not everyone can work.”
Last year Raise the Rates challenged MLAs to live on $610 a month and organized over 100 people to live on $26 a week, the amount people on welfare have to spend on food.
“A lot of people in BC want an effective poverty reduction strategy,” said Jean Swanson of Raise the Rates. “The foundation of that strategy is a significant increase in welfare to the poorest people in the province. This $20 announcement is an insult. Voters who want poverty reduction are left wondering who to vote for.”
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