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.
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 change||Date implemented||Amount||Frequency|
Assist from 25% to 30%of income
|July 1, 2017 (to 28%) and July 1, 2018 (to 30%)|
|Single minimum wageworker part-time||-$66.46||per month|
|Single minimum wageworker full-time||-$112.92||per month|
at MBM poverty line
|2 parents; 3children, atMBM||-$190.30||per month|
|July 1, 2017||150 families removed|
|July 1, 2018||150 families removed|
|July 1, 2017|
|May 1, 2019||-$25.00||per month|
Rent Assistfor under
|July 1, 2019||-$27.00||per month|