Today is the first day that rent is due since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO. What is the provincial government doing to help households pay the rent during the crisis?
The federal government has introduced a number of emergency initiatives to support households that have lost income as a result of the virus. But the provincial government has not yet put much needed resources on the table to help people pay the rent during the crisis, nor capitalized on existing policy tools.
Premier Pallister might look to Premier Ford in Ontario as an example. Today the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit takes effect.
This provincially delivered program is a joint $1.46-billion federal-provincial housing allowance program providing an income-tested, portable housing benefit (PHB) payment. A monthly subsidy – PHB – will provide low-income households the ability to pay housing costs. Unlike other forms of housing assistance, the PHB is tied to the household, rather than the physical housing unit, allowing the benefit to move with the household.
The model is not unlike Manitoba’s Rent Assist program, an innovative policy tool introduced over 5 years ago. Rather than beefing it up to address the current crisis, the provincial government is sticking with its plans to scale it back. As a result, it is not taking full advantage of federal funding that could be used to enhance Manitoba’s Rent Assist program to ensure that more households can access needed support now.
Premier Pallister continues to say that “nothing is off the table” when asked about his government’s strategy to support Manitobans during this time of unprecedented crisis. Manitobans have expressed their desire to help each other during this ‘rainy day’ in Manitoba.
Therefore, Premier Pallister needs to open up resources and spending, and work in collaboration with the federal government to put money on the table and into the hands of renters who need it now.