Read this Op-ed! Poverty, percentages and the PST

Read this Op-Ed from two members of our Provincial Working Group, Caitlin Ferry and Shauna Mackinnon, with more of our take on the recent cuts & changes to EIA and Rent Assist. Or find it on the Free Press website.

Opinion

Poverty, percentages and the PST

By: Caitlin Ferry and Shauna MacKinnon
Posted: 06/10/2019

In April 2019, thousands of Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) recipients were sent a letter from the Department of Families informing them they will no longer receive a $25-a-month supplement to help them find work. The job seekers allowance helped single EIA recipients with basic costs, such as printing resumes and purchasing appropriate clothing for interviews.

As noted in Manitoba’s “Pathways to a Better Future: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategy,” single non-elderly individuals are particularly vulnerable: 30.1 per cent lived in poverty in 2016. The explanation in the letter to recipients was this:

“EIA has significantly increased the income supports provided to those who are most in need. From each year between July 2014 and July 2018, monthly income benefits increased on average by 5.4 per cent for single non-disabled households renting in the private market and by 3.9 per cent for non-disabled couples without children. These benefit increases are significantly greater than the increase in general prices in Manitoba over this same period. As well, the government has also announced a one per cent reduction in the PST effective July 2019.”

The elimination of the allowance is another program in a growing list of poverty-reduction initiatives being cut by the Pallister government. The job seekers allowance was introduced by the NDP government in 2007 to provide recipients with extra financial support to help them find employment. The idea that the allowance came with no strings attached is a misconception; recipients receiving the allowance were required to develop detailed action plans with their caseworkers, and expectations were clearly outlined. Failure to comply could result in assistance being withheld.

According to the Department of Families, 12,300 individuals received the allowance, at a cost of $3.7 million.

While $25 may not seem like much, it is a lot for EIA recipients who receive a basic income of $195 per month to cover all expenses other than rent. That’s about $6.50 a day to cover the cost of food, transportation, clothing, telephone and other day-to-day expenses. Most EIA recipients live in private-market housing, where they pay rents that far exceed their budgets. Dipping into food budgets to pay rent is common.

In its letter to recipients, the government pointed to two measures that it says justifies the $25 cut.

The first is an increase in income supports of 5.4 per cent between 2014 and 2018. This refers to the Rent Assist program implemented by the NDP government, a program designed to help low-income people cover the rising cost of rent. While it may be true that the increase is higher than the increase in general prices over the period between 2014 and 2018, the increase was long overdue.

Manitoba’s EIA shelter allowance had fallen far behind the cost of housing. Single EIA recipients have seen a marginal increase in shelter benefits since 1994. That year they received $271 each month for rent; at that time the median market rent for a one-bedroom was $440 and it was possible to find housing in line with an EIA budget.

Single EIA recipients received a small increase of $14 in 2008. They continued to receive $285 per month until 2015, when the median market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Winnipeg had increased by close to 80 per cent, to $782. The current median market rent for a one-bedroom is $950.

While Rent Assist helps, private-market rents have become increasingly unaffordable and EIA recipients typically spend far more on rent than their income provides. On May 30, we learned that additional cuts in Rent Assist will put single EIA recipients further behind.

The second poverty reduction initiative referred to is the highly publicized one-percentage-point reduction in the PST. Manitoba’s 2019 budget estimates “savings” for Manitoba households ranging from $86 for a single person in 2019 to $529 for a household in 2024.

Describing this as a measure that will help people living in poverty is disingenuous.

To save the $86, an individual must spend $8,600 on PST-taxable goods. To save $529, an individual must spend $52,900. Single EIA recipients remind us they receive a living allowance of $2,340 a year, leaving them very little to spend on PST-taxable goods. At best, they will save a few dollars.

Budget 2019 also shows the one-percentage-point PST cut means a significant loss in revenue. The government estimates a loss of $237 million in 2019-20 and $325 million in 2020-21. The total loss in revenue between 2020 and 2024 will be $1.36 billion — imagine what this could do to lift people out of poverty.

The PST cut may seem appealing on the surface, but the cost will far outweigh the benefits as the government looks for ways to make up the lost revenue. Eliminating the $25 supplement is one small example. The Manitoba job seekers allowance was an inexpensive program that made a big difference for single individuals living in poverty. Cutting the job seekers allowance will save the government very little, but it will make life far more difficult for vulnerable Manitobans.

Caitlin Ferry is a North End housing advocate. Shauna MacKinnon is an associate professor and chair of the department of urban and inner-city studies at the University of Winnipeg. Both are members of the provincial working group of Make Poverty History Manitoba.

Advertisements
Posted in Event | Leave a comment

Manitoba’s PC government is making more cuts to Rent Assist and EIA

Recent changes continue trend of chipping away supports for low-income Manitobans

Effective July 1, the Province is freezing Rent Assist for individuals without disabilities on Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) and for individuals under the age of 55, not on EIA. Other Rent Assist recipients will receive a regularly scheduled annual increase in benefits to keep up with rental inflation, as mandated under legislation. Those impacted will not receive the additional $27 per month that  individuals over 55 and those on disability will receive on July 1. This comes on the heels of a cut to a $25 a month supplement for single EIA recipients to assist them in their job search.

These recent cuts to Rent Assist and EIA are just the latest in an onslaught of changes, freezes, and inaction on key poverty reduction and social inclusion programs in Manitoba. Poverty in Manitoba is at a crisis point, and people can not take even one more cut. The government’s actions also contradict their own poverty reduction strategy. According to the recently released Pathways to a Better Future: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, single individuals living alone are one of the groups most vulnerable to poverty, and these cuts in Rent Assist and EIA impact these individuals the most.

“To wrap up their spring legislative session, the provincial government is recklessly weakening Rent Assist, leaving thousands of households more vulnerable to housing crisis and homelessness,” said Michael Barkman, Chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba. “On the very day the cut to the PST will go into effect, low income renters will start the month $27 in the hole when they pay their landlord. The provincial government is abandoning their commitment to a strong Rent Assist program, as well as their own stated goals of Manitoba’s poverty reduction strategy.”

Individuals on non-EIA rent assist under age 55 and singles on General Assistance will have their levels frozen at $576 per month, potentially for several years. Even at current rates, very few units are available in the private market.

The creation of a new category of reduced rent assist for individuals under the age of 55 is arbitrary and discriminatory. It creates a false division suggesting that some people living in poverty are more deserving than others. It seems that the government expects that single adults under 55 on General Assistance without a disability will be able to find work right away. This is not the case, and cutting EIA will only further build up a welfare wall to enter meaningful work.

Our coalition has community-based recommendations to reduce the welfare wall and ensure that all Manitobans would be at least living at the poverty line. A Livable Basic Needs Benefit would bring all Manitobans to at least the poverty line, accompanied with investments in education & training, housing, childcare, a $15 minimum wage, and mental health supports.

Make Poverty History Manitoba has written to Families Minister Heather Stefanson demanding that the changes to rent assist be reversed along with other recent cuts to EIA, as well as implementing our proposed alternatives to address poverty in our province. We are expecting all parties in an upcoming provincial election to adopt our recommendations in their platforms.

Backgrounder:

Cuts to EIA and Rent Assist since 2016:

2019 is the third year in a row the Manitoba government has changed Rent Assist to reduce benefits. In 2017, the deductible for non-EIA rent assist was increased from 25 to 28 percent, and in 2018 it was increased to 30 percent. Those changes reduced the benefits for some households by as much as $100 per month for some individuals and by almost $200 for some families. This new announcement also follows on a decision last month to eliminate the $25 per month Job Seekers Allowance for over 11,000 households.


Program changeDate implementedAmountFrequency
Increase
deductiblefor Rent
Assist from 25% to 30%of income
July 1, 2017 (to 28%) and July 1, 2018 (to 30%)

Single minimum wageworker part-time
-$66.46per month
Single minimum wageworker full-time
-$112.92per month
Single
parent; 2
children,
at MBM poverty line

-$151.92per month
2 parents; 3children, atMBM
-$190.30per month
Lower
threshold
for
Rent Assisteligibility
July 1, 2017150 families removed
Lower
threshold
for
Rent Assisteligibility
July 1, 2018150 families removed
CancellingGetting
Started
Benefit
July 1, 2017

Individuals
-$175.00one time
Parents
with
dependent
children

-$250.00one time
Persons
with
disabilities

-$325.00one time
Ending JobSeekers’
allowance
May 1, 2019-$25.00per month
Freezing
Rent Assistfor under
55 &
general
assistanc
EIA
July 1, 2019-$27.00per month


Posted in blog, News release | Leave a comment

Exciting news at City Hall on April 30! Unanimous support for Winnipeg Poverty Strategy

Exciting news today as the City of Winnipeg’s Executive Policy Committee unanimously passed a motion to create a Poverty Reduction Strategy! 

Almost exactly one year ago Make Poverty History Manitoba launched a call for a poverty plan. This is very promising news, and an important step toward a Winnipeg Without Poverty. Ending poverty saves lives and money.

Thanks to supporters, advocates, and community members for all your work over the last year to build momentum for this to happen. This would not have happened without strong community support for a Winnipeg Without Poverty!

Thanks to Councillor Cindy Gilroy for passing the original motion and for leading on this issue along with Mayor Brian Bowman and the mayor’s office. Thanks to Winnipeg’s Public Service for working so hard toward today’s important report.

The City will spend the next 365 days crafting its strategy, including an implementation plan for additional measures to address poverty.

Our campaign must continue over the next year to advocate for a visionary strategy with bold, justice-focused, and innovative policies.

Join us at Make Poverty History Manitoba’s General Meeting:
We’ll celebrate our success, and build our Winnipeg Without Poverty campaign together into the next year!
Wednesday, May 8 
12pm-1pm
At the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (432 Ellice Ave)
Event link here
Light lunch served.

Questions? Email chair@makepovertyhistorymb.com

Posted in blog, winnipeg without poverty | Leave a comment

Failing Grade: Manitoba Poverty Reduction Strategy and Budget 2019

“I grew up poor. I appreciate the reality that many Manitobans face. It’s very difficult for many Manitobans right now. The month runs out a lot of times after the money has run out…. I want to work with anyone who wants to address the issues of poverty effectively.….We need to focus on this issue …I believe (poverty) is the number one issue for us in this province.”

Brian Pallister, CBC leaders debate 2016 provincial election (minute 35)

Download our Report here.

Despite Brian Pallister’s expression of concern in the 2016 provincial election, the provincial government lacks any serious vision to address poverty in Manitoba while in government. Instead, the government is hardly taking any significant, comprehensive action, while simultaneously cutting key services that would improve the lives of Manitobans.

In March 2019, the Province of Manitoba released its renewed poverty reduction strategy, Pathways to a Better Future: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategyfollowed by a provincial budget. The renewed poverty reduction strategy and the 2019 budget did not live up to expectations. For this reason Make Poverty History Manitoba gives the Province a failing grade on poverty reduction.

For over ten years, Make Poverty History Manitoba, has called on governments to implement  comprehensive, systemic action to address poverty.  Make Poverty History Manitoba is a “big tent” coalition with many effective, evidence-based ideas to address poverty but our requests to meet with the Minister of Families, Heather Stefanson have been declined.

Failing to address poverty through comprehensive measures comes with many costs.  Unable to access affordable housing, education, training, jobs that pay a decent wage and a host of other supports, many people living in poverty find themselves trapped in a downward spiral, trying just to survive from day to day.

We are calling for comprehensive action through key government policies and programs to end poverty in Manitoba. This is rooted in a deep concern for the pervasiveness of poverty in this province, and its resulting social issues: addictions, lower quality of life, poor health outcomes, barriers to participation in education and the workforce, incarceration and criminalization, family separation, and more. It is driven by a strong hope that our province can end poverty by setting bold targets and timelines supported by financial commitments outlined in its budgets.

The action most often cited by the current government to address poverty are changes to the Basic Personal Amount (BPA), the floor at which we start paying taxes and indexing the tax brackets to inflation. These yearly, incremental changes will cumulatively save those in the lowest tax bracket $53 on their taxes in 2019. The changes to the BPA are regressive as they result in higher earners getting more of a break: the upper tax bracket saves $253 in taxes in 2019. This lost revenue to the province has not been replaced with other sources and as a result, programs and services we all rely on are being cut.

Below, we will analyze and review Pathways to a Better Future in the context of our more than 10 years of advocacy for the provincial government to take ending poverty seriously, including our 2015 community report, The View from Here: Manitobans Call for a Renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy.

After The View From Here was launched in 2015, community members identified six priority areas for action that the province of Manitoba should take. During the 2016 provincial election all provincial parties were asked to commit to action on these six areas, including a comprehensive poverty plan. Below we also have included a report card on the other five priority areas as they align with Pathways to a Better Future and Budget 2019: minimum wage, housing, income/social assistance, childcare, and mental health. Working together, we believe that action in these key areas would be essential in reducing poverty and create stronger, more inclusive communities.

  1. Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Legislation and Strategy
  2. Increase the Minimum Wage to $15.53 per hour (in 2014 dollars)
  3. Invest in 300 units per year of social housing
  4. Livable Basic Needs Benefit to replace EIA
  5. Eliminate the waitlist for affordable child care spaces
  6. Double funding for mental health services

1.    Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Legislation and Strategy

In 2009, Make Poverty History Manitoba released The View From Here: Manitoba Calls for a Poverty Reduction Plan. Five years later the community came together to give input into an updated poverty reduction strategy and the second edition of the View from Here 2015: Manitobans Call for a Renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy was published and endorsed by over 100 community groups.

This widely supported document included recommendations as well as timelines and targets. As a result of this community advocacy, Manitoba implemented its first poverty reduction plan in 2009. In 2011, it enacted the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, legislating the government to create and report on a provincial poverty reduction strategy.

In 2014, the Commission of Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Phoenix Sinclair agreed with the importance of a comprehensive approach to poverty. Included in its 62 recommendations was a call to implement all recommendations outlined in the View From Here, recognizing poverty as a root cause of many of the systemic failures that led to Phoenix’s tragic death.

According to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, a review and update to the strategy, required every five years, was due in 2017. The province finally released an updated strategy in March 2019, two years after the due date.  The release of a provincial poverty strategy would not have occurred were it not for community advocacy to create the initial legislation. MPHM has been repeatedly calling for the current provincial government to release an updated strategy based on community priorities as outlined in The View from Here. It is extremely disappointing that little community wisdom around targets and evidence-based policy ideas was taken from The View From Here within Manitoba’s new strategy, Pathways to a Better Future.

This government’s plan to address the many challenges facing people living in poverty is woefully inadequate. There are no new initiatives introduced in the plan and no new funding in the budget to address poverty.

Pathways to a Better Future – Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

A poverty reduction strategy will be more effective if targets are bold and progress is measured. The targets and timelines set by the province for reducing poverty have already been achieved.

The new provincial poverty reduction strategy commits to the federal goal of reducing the national poverty rate by 20 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030. Notably the federal government’s baseline year starting place for this target is 2015, the year prior to the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit. This February, the federal government announced this target was met three years ahead of schedule. Setting a target that is easy to achieve reduces the urgency and pressure on the federal government to act to bring down poverty rates and the commiserate suffering experienced by low-income Canadians sooner.

In Manitoba’s new strategy, the provincial government committed to reducing the child poverty rate by 25 percent by 2025 relative to the 2015 baseline, the year prior to the federal Canada Child Benefit and the Manitoba rent supplement program Rent Assist.  Likely due to these two benefits, poverty rates declined in 2016 and 2017. Statistics Canada data from 2017 is available and could have been used a baseline to create an ambitious target for our province. Instead, Manitoba chose 2015 as the baseline year, perhaps to show progress since 2015 with numbers that make the province look more favourable.

Recommendation:

While MPHM is pleased that governments are finally setting targets and timelines to reduce poverty, they must be more ambitiously focused on the future. There is still opportunity to heed the advice of community and adopt an ambitious, comprehensive plan to end poverty in the province, including the recommendations with The View From Here 2015.

2.    Increase the Minimum Wage to $15.53 per hour (in 2014 dollars)

Manitoba passed the Minimum Wage Indexation Act in 2017, which legislates an increase to the minimum wage to the rate of inflation every October 1. On March 27th, Manitoba announced the minimum wage is increasing to $11.65/ hour on October 1, 2019.

The minimum wage is an arbitrary amount, not based on the cost of living. Incremental increases to minimum wage have not substantially reduced poverty in Manitoba and MPHM believes that a bolder increase is needed.

When lower income workers earn more money, they have more spending power to meet their basic needs and are less reliant on social services and assistance. Low-income earners spend virtually all of their money locally, boosting the local economy, and contributing to a larger tax base.

It is problematic that Pathways to a Better Future does not mention or discuss the minimum wage. The legal floor for the wages of the lowest income workers is set by the Province of Manitoba and should be of central concern to any poverty-reduction strategy.

Recommendation:

MPHM supports increasing the minimum wage to the Low Income Tax Cut Off (Before Tax) measure through a series of pre-announced steps and indexing it to the cost of living.

3.    Invest in 300 units per year of social housing

Housing is the single biggest expense for people living in poverty. More than 46,000 Manitoba households experience core housing need: paying unaffordable rent, living in overcrowded or substandard housing and unable to afford suitable accommodations.

Manitoba’s poverty reduction strategy consultations found that adequate, safe and affordable housing is a priority for people living in poverty. The province has been developing a new provincial housing framework for several years now but it has still not been released.

Manitoba has not yet signed a bilateral agreement with the federal government, which has $40 billion dollars available through the National Housing Strategy. As noted by the The Right to Housing Coalition the Manitoba government:

  • has not funded the creation of any new social housing since 2016. Winnipeg has 1,500 people who are homeless according to the 2018 street census. Homelessness is a concern across Manitoba in communities like Thompson and Brandon. The private market will not provide needed low-income housing, public investment is needed to build social housing for low-income Manitobans.
  • has cut capital borrowing in half since 2015: repairs are not being done to maintain public housing stock in Manitoba.
  • has raised the threshold low-income households pay of their income on shelter costs from 25% to 30%. This means a single minimum wage worker full time has had $111 per month cut from Rent Assist. A single parent with two children receives $151 less per month in Rent Assist.
  • has sold off 1,000 units of publicly owned housing since 2016.

The poverty reduction plan states the province has “engaged the services of KPMG to identify transformational opportunities to increase efficiencies, value for money and better allocation of financial resources in serving the housing needs of vulnerable Manitobans” (p. 41). Engaging the services of an auditor using only a financial framework may lead to more public housing units being sold.

Recommendation:

Instead, Manitoba should invest in the development of much needed new social and public housing and maintain existing public housing stock. MPHM and the Right to Housing Coalition call for a provincial investment in a minimum of 300 net new units of rent-geared-to-income housing annually to meet the increasing need of social housing for low-income families.

4.    Livable Basic Needs Benefit to replace EIA

Currently Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) rates are significantly below the poverty line. People all too often must choose between eating and paying the rent.  Many rely on food banks and charity to survive.

EIA recipients receive Rent Assist in addition to a basic needs benefit. The Manitoba Poverty Reduction plan conflates the improvements to Rent Assist as being an improvement overall for those on Social Assistance. It lumps Rent Assist together with the basic needs benefit to show increases to assistance rates. Rent Assist is meant for housing costs.

As shown in Table 1, the shelter benefit for those on EIA increased substantially when Rent Assist was introduced in 2014 and 2015.

Table 1: Shelter Benefit & Rent Assist Changes for those on EIA in $
Family typeBefore RA (June 2014)RA introduced (July 2014)RA to 75% MMR (Dec 2015)
Single individual (General Assistance) $365 $435 $513
Single individual (disability): $365 $435 $513
Single Parent – One children (Ages 4) $430 $480 $742
Two Adults – Two Children (Ages 14 & 8) $471 $521 $742

Although some gains have been made as a result of Rent Assist, the basic needs budget that EIA recipients receive for food, toiletries and basic households supplies has not increased for single individuals in over 20 years and has seen only nominal increases for the other household types.

Last winter, MPHM launched a campaign to transform EIA into a Livable Basic Needs Benefit to bring all of those on EIA up to the Market Basket Measure poverty line and eliminate the welfare wall by providing supports to those who transition to paid work.

Table 2 compares the EIA budget with the actual cost of food, demonstrating that the amount EIA recipients receive for basic needs is woefully insufficient. EIA basic needs rates have fallen far below the cost of basic goods in Manitoba, in part because they are not indexed to inflation.

Table 2: Food budgets for EIA recipients*
Family typeTotal Basic Needs budgetEIA food budgetActual cost of foodFood budget as a % of food cost
Single individual (General Assistance) $195.00 $117.00 $295.70 40%
Single individual (disability): $274.80 $164.88 $295.70 56%
Single Parent – One children (Ages 4) $376.40 $225.84 $373.22 61%
Two Adults – Two Children (Ages 14 & 8) $800.40 $480.24 $880.08 55%

*Note the food cost data below is from 2016, the province has not yet released its 2017 Nutritious Food Basket report and data.

The Manitoba Poverty Reduction Plan fails to recognize EIA rates are woefully inadequate to meet basic needs, and has zero vision to help those living on social assistance to be lifted out of poverty. Manitobans on EIA will continue to fall deeper and deeper into poverty as the cost of living rises.

Recommendation:

The Livable Basic Needs Benefit campaign calls for the basic needs benefit to cover the actual costs of the basics: food, clothing, communications and transportation. The proposed benefit would be sufficient, when combined with other federal and provincial income supports and would lift all Manitobans to the poverty line.

In addition, the Livable Basic Needs Benefit campaign calls for an end to the dollar for dollar clawback of EIA on earned income through employment. This creates a disincentive to access meaningful employment, known as the welfare wall. A Livable Basic Needs Benefit would ease the transition for those who are able to work from welfare to employment.

5.    Eliminate the waitlist for affordable child care spaces

Access to quality, affordable child care is key to decreasing poverty rates and a substantial body of literature explains it is good for child development. Access to childcare allows parents to participate in the labour market or further their education. Access to childcare is especially important for women, who continue to be the primary caregivers as well as the majority of those employed in the childcare sector.

The official provincial wait list for child care has risen from 12,000 in 2016 to 16,650 names as of June 2018. Parents wait an average of 15 months for child care, which has huge impacts on returning to work or school. Make Poverty History Manitoba supports eliminating the wait list with a priority on low-income families.

Provincial funding for licensed, not-for-profit child care programs has been frozen for three years. As described in this petition signed by 26,000 Manitobans, there is simply no money available to improve the wages of early child care educators, some of whom are paid less than a living wage.

Subsidized child care is hard to find in Manitoba. Only 18.5% of eligible Manitoba children have access to child care, the lowest coverage rate of all Canadian provinces.  The income cut-off for maximum subsidy is substantially lower than poverty levels, and not indexed to inflation. Fewer and fewer parents qualify for a subsidized child care space. The absolute number of children receiving a subsidy has fallen from nearly half in 2000/01 (47.9%) to a fifth (20.5%) in 2017/18. If low-income parents do qualify, they are still charged $2/ day per child.

Manitoba signed a bilateral agreement with the Federal government for $47 million from 2017/18 to 2019/20. Manitoba has agreed to create only 1,400 newly funded spaces when 16,650 are needed. It is extremely concerning that during this child care crisis funding was CUT by $1.4 million dollars from last year to this year, 2019/20.

Manitoba regulations ensure that commercial child care centres are ineligible for operating grants or payments for subsidized children.  However, the Manitoba government recently moved to allocate $2 million through tax credits to private businesses to start-up workplace childcare centres. When a similar tax credit was introduced by the federal Harper government, few new spaces were created. Dr Susan Prentice has described this move as“irresponsible stewardship of the public purse”.

The Manitoba Poverty Reduction Strategy includes a global number of child care spaces but does put this in the context of the child population in Manitoba or the wait list for child care.

Recommendation:

Manitoba should create enough new non-profit, public, quality, affordable, child care spaces with a priority given to low socioeconomic neighbourhoods to eliminate the wait list. In addition, Manitoba should immediately provide a full subsidy for families living below the poverty line.

6.    Double funding for mental health services

Manitobans living in poverty have limited options to access mental health care. Most do not have privately funded mental health benefits, which can speed up access to psychologists by up to 24 months. People who live in poverty are more likely to encounter institutional discrimination in the healthcare system, and studies have shown they receive fewer referrals to specialist care and fewer treatment options than their wealthier counterparts.

For many people living in poverty, the public healthcare system is the main provider of mental health services. An increase in mental health funding targeted to people living in poverty is essential to promote equity within the underfunded mental healthcare system.

The rise of methamphetamine use in Manitoba can in part be attributed to persistent poverty, as described by MPHM Chair Michael Barkman and West Central Women’s Resource Centre Executive Director Lorie English in an op-ed published in the Winnipeg Free Press, “Meth is the symptom: poverty is the crisis”.

Manitoba only recently signed the bilateral health accord three years after it was tabled. Manitoba’s share of the mental health funding was $205.5 million over 11 years. Manitoba could have benefited from this funding three years ago to deal with the methamphetamine crisis, instead it dragged its heels in negotiations. Now that the agreement is signed, the province should expedite this funding and target community-based responses for low-income and vulnerable people impacted by methamphetamine crisis.

Mental health spending in Manitoba remains below the standard set by international and national research which says it should be 9% percent of total health spending. In 2019/20 Manitoba budgeted $6.1 billion on health care spending and $340 million on community and mental health services – 5% of the health budget. In Budget 2019/20, there is no new money to support the government’s Child and Youth Mental Health Strategy.

Recommendation:

Make Poverty History Manitoba urges the province to double spending for community-based mental health services that serve low-income Manitobans.

Much more to be said

There is more to be said about the Manitoba Poverty Reduction Plan and Budget 2019. The provincial government is failing low-income Manitobans in many policy areas including education, kindergarten to Grade 12, postsecondary education, training and and jobs. Analysis related to these areas can be found with the Manitoba Teachers’ Societythe Canadian Federation of Students – Manitoba and the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, among others.

It is clear to Make Poverty History Manitoba that Manitoba’s provincial poverty reduction strategy is seriously flawed. Funding for key community priorities is being cut when investments should be made. Vulnerable Manitobans and those who struggle to get by every day will continue to be left behind in Manitoba. This is unacceptable. Make Poverty History Manitoba urges the Province of Manitoba to implement The View from Here, reverse cuts, and allocate adequate resources to end poverty in Manitoba.

Please write to the co-chairs of the Manitoba Poverty Reduction Strategy (Heather Stefanson, Minister of Families [minfs@leg.gov.mb.ca] and Kelvin Goertzen, Minister of Education & Training [minedu@leg.gov.mb.ca]) to share your feedback and concerns.

Michael Barkman is the Chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba and Molly McCracken is the director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba.

References

Posted in blog, News release | Leave a comment

EIA recipient budgets may be clawed back with incoming Federal Carbon Rebates

Some of the lowest income Manitobans are at risk of having their federal Carbon Action Incentive rebates clawed back by the provincial government. Make Poverty History Manitoba has asked Families Minister, Heather Stefanson to amend the Manitoba Assistance regulation so that households on Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) receive their Climate Action Incentive Payments when they file their taxes.

This year, the federal government will begin distributing carbon tax rebates to households, based on their 2018 taxes – approximately $339 for a family of four. However, these payments are not currently on a list of exempted income sources the department uses in calculating financial need. As a result, the rebates could be taken back dollar for dollar from EIA checks this spring.

“Families on Employment and Income Assistance count on every dollar to meet basic needs. While the basic needs budget for EIA recipients has hardly increased over the last two decades, the government has not committed to ensuring that low-income Manitobans receive federal rebates,” said Michael Barkman, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba, “With price of fuel and heating going up due to the carbon action incentive, federal rebates are critical.”

In a response to a Make Poverty History Manitoba letter, Heather Stefanson last month confirmed her department is looking at the matter, but did not commit to amending the regulation.

The Government of Canada expects incremental costs of food and other consumer goods costs to add up to $233 per household on average, though these costs will vary depending on geography, income, household fuel type, and means of transportation. This will be offset by the Climate Action Incentive rebate.

“Make Poverty History Manitoba supports action on climate change, especially since the effects of global warming will be felt most severely by vulnerable and low-income households and communities in Manitoba and across the world,” continued Barkman, “The climate action incentive payments are essential for low income households in particular to weather the costs of action on climate change. In order for the costs of climate action to be borne fairly, Manitoba must ensure that the lowest income households, including those on EIA, have access to incentive payments to adjust to their increased household costs resulting from carbon taxes.”

Posted in blog, News release | Leave a comment

Coalition uses music in the fight against poverty

What: Make Poverty History Manitoba’s 3rd Annual Fundraiser

Where: West End Cultural Centre, 586 Ellice Ave. Winnipeg, MB
When: Thursday, March 14, 8:00 pm (doors at 7:15)

Featuring: Sweet Alibi; Jaxon Haldane; Tuva Bergstrom; Nick Parenteau

Hosted by Michael Champagne

Tickets: $20 available at: https://www.eventbrite.ca/o/west-end-cultural-centre-17906826450 or at Make Poverty History Manitoba, 432 Ellice Avenue

Low-Income Tickets: Visit Social Planning Council of Winnipeg at 432 Ellice Ave, or at 204-943-2561

Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) is harnessing the power of music to help drive social change. The coalition is holding a concert on Thursday, March 14 at the West End Cultural Centre featuring prominent local artists who share a concern about poverty. The purpose of the event will be both to raise awareness about poverty and to raise funds to support efforts to end poverty. All proceeds go to support the work of Make Poverty History Manitoba, which works towards a Winnipeg and Manitoba without poverty through public education and advocating policy change.

“We are incredibly excited about the artists we are bringing together for this event, both for their musical talent as well as for their commitment to fighting poverty,” said Michael Barkman, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba. “Our event raises awareness about the serious issues of poverty that affect over 100,000 people in Manitoba, and also to celebrate our successes over the past year in organization and building a movement for social change. We join together to harness the power of music to help drive social change, raise awareness about poverty, and make it history.”

The concert will be headlined by Western Canadian Music award winning trio, Sweet Alibi. The Winnipeg-based folk/pop band infuse their signature harmonies with influences of everything from folk to country to soul. As in past years, the event will include a songwriters’ circle of up and coming artists: Jaxon Haldane; Tuva Bergstrom; Nick Parenteau. North End community organizer Michael Redhead Champagne will MC.

We are a volunteer-run coalition. Thanks to supporters, we have advocated for a provincial poverty reduction plan, a livable basic needs benefit, housing, childcare, mental health supports, adequate income supports, and more. As well, last year’s funds raised helped support the Winnipeg Without Poverty campaign, calling for a comprehensive City of Winnipeg poverty plan.

More details on our Facebook event!

Posted in Event | Leave a comment

Community Responds to Manitoba’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy

Provincial strategyOn Monday, the Province of Manitoba released its poverty reduction strategy, Pathways to a Better Future. On Thursday, March 7, 2019, they will release their 2019 Budget. This strategy was released almost two years late according to The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act. The only target and timeline identified for reducing poverty in Manitoba is one that has already been met. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether the strategy introduces any new initiatives and/or funding for reducing poverty. Community members will be attending tomorrow’s budget and ready for comment.

Read the province’s strategy here.

Read our initial response below comparing Strengths and Weaknesses of the Strategy. watch for more detailed analysis in the weeks to come!

Table - Strength WeaknessRead The View From Here: Manitobans Call for a Renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy here.

Read our submission to the Province’s poverty reduction plan consultation here.

 

Posted in blog, News release | Leave a comment

Make Poverty History responds to 2019 City of Winnipeg Budget

Make Poverty History responds to 2019 City of Winnipeg Budget

We congratulate the City of Winnipeg for initiating a Low Income Bus Pass program in the 2019 Budget, beginning on April 1, 2020. Affordable public transit is foundational to building a socially equitable community and very important for many key aspects of life such as getting to medical appointments, training, work, doing errands and maintaining relationships with family and friends.

Last year, Make Poverty History Manitoba published Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead, the community’s call to action for the city to develop and implement a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy.  Our community vision is for the City of Winnipeg to take a strategic approach to reducing poverty through identifying city-wide poverty reduction goals and creating an action plan to achieve them. This included key recommendations around policing/safety, reconciliation, housing, health, recreation, and more. We look forward to continuing to work with the City of Winnipeg toward these goals and innovative ideas for poverty reduction in Winnipeg.

“Within our report, we examined the best practices of poverty reduction strategies in other communities across Canada.  Among many recommendations, we identified a low-income bus pass as a key piece of an overall Winnipeg poverty reduction strategy,” said Michael Barkman, Chairperson for Make Poverty History Manitoba, “Our members are pleased to see this important step forward from the City of Winnipeg to help low income Winnipeggers access transportation, while also seeing a freeze in transit fares for this year.”

The Low-Income Bus Pass will be implemented over three years, starting with a 30 percent discount on April 1, 2020, a 40 percent discount in 2021, and a 50 percent discount in 2022. As of now, the program will include eligible adults, but we encourage the City to include a 50% off regular youth pass and a 50% off single ride rate (bus ticket), while also committing to freezing transit fares in future years.

“It takes leadership to adopt a program such as this, and we look forward to collaborating with the city over the next year in the implementation of this project,” continued Barkman, “But, we know that even a 50% discount is not enough to best meet the needs of all low-income Winnipeggers.”

The best practice identified in research such as the 2018 State of the Inner City Report: Green Light Go: Improving Transportation Equity from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – MB, is a sliding scale bus pass, based on ability to pay. Calgary, as a result of support from the province, moved to a sliding scale subsidy as high as 95% for low income residents. We urge the Province of Manitoba to partner with the City of Winnipeg and invest the necessary financial resources to implement a sliding scale bus pass in Winnipeg so that no one is left behind due to lack of ability to afford transit.

Budget 2019 City of Winnipeg Press release (2)

 

Posted in Event | Leave a comment

Watch Our New Video for Winnipeg Without Poverty!

Thanks to supporters, volunteers, and endorsing organizations, our campaign for a Winnipeg Without Poverty has put poverty on the City of Winnipeg’s agenda.

The City has taken some very crucial steps toward poverty reduction – City Council will soon vote on a report written by the city’s public service on what the City of Winnipeg is doing to reduce poverty and what more it could do. We know that this report is already making a difference and we can’t stop here!

We need to show City Council and the Mayor that there is strong community support for a second phase of this report that includes city-wide poverty reduction goals and an action plan to achieve them. This is an exciting time for Winnipeg.

Working together, we can make poverty history.

#wpgwithoutpoverty

Video | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Make Poverty History in Winnipeg & Manitoba: Fundraising Concert

Make Poverty History | 3rd Annual Fundraiser

Join together to harness the power of music to help drive social change, raise awareness about poverty, and make it history.

All proceeds go to support the work of Make Poverty History Manitoba, which works towards a Winnipeg and Manitoba without poverty through public education and advocating policy change.

Headliner: Sweet Alibi
Songwriters Circle featuring: Jaxon Haldane; Tuva Bergstrom; Nick Parenteau
MC: Michael Redhead Champagne

Doors at 7:15pm
Show at 8:00pm

Tickets $20 Advance/At Door
Tickets at https://www.eventbrite.ca/o/west-end-cultural-centre-17906826450, West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellie Ave.) or at Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (432 Ellice Ave.).

Facebook Event here!

Low-Income and want a ticket? Contact Social Planning Council of Winnipeg at (204) 943-2561 or at 432 Ellice Avenue.

Great prizes and packages will be raffled!
Interested in donating a prize? Contact chair@makepovertyhistorymb.com

We are a volunteer-run coalition. Funds raised in past years have helped to contribute to advocacy, research, events, rallies, and campaigns. Our coalition has successfully raised awareness about the serious issues of poverty that affect over 100,000 people in Manitoba.

Thanks to supporters, we have advocated for a provincial poverty reduction plan, a livable basic needs benefit, housing, childcare, mental health supports, a $15 minimum wage, and more. As well, last year’s funds raised helped support the Winnipeg Without Poverty campaign, calling for a comprehensive City of Winnipeg poverty plan.

Join us as we celebrate the successes of our community coming together, and look toward building our movement for change.

#kNOWpoverty

Posted in Event | Leave a comment