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October 28, 2006

Four Month or More Delay in Welfare Shelter

"And today I can tell you that we will increase the shelter allowance for income-assistance recipients in the next budget for British Columbia and that will be the first increase since 1994."
Premier Gordon Campbell, Speech to the UBCM, October 2006

Advocates for the poor should always be grateful when a few crumbs fall off the table. After more than five years of neglect, it is hard not to say thank you for finally considering an increase in the shelter allowance for our most needy citizens.

On October 3rd, BC's Minister Responsible for Housing, Rich Coleman, announced a $40 million a year program which he said would benefit 15,000 low-income renters; those on welfare were ruled ineligible. On October 27th, Premier Campbell said people on welfare would get some good news with respect to their shelter allowance, if they held on for another four months plus whatever implementation time would be announced in the February budget.

Between October and February, BC will go through a cold, wet winter with many of the most needy not being able to find shelter. When the Campbell government came to power it announced $1.5 billion in tax cuts the day it was sworn in, followed by another $790 million in corporate tax cuts in its July 2001 mini-budget. Why can't it act with equal speed to help people needing assistance, including those on the streets, before the start of winter?

A 50% increase in the shelter allowance, about 40% of the total income assistance budget, would cost less than the annual amount given in tax cuts in 2001 to those making more than $250,000 per year. It took less than a day to give an average tax cut of over $20,000 per year to the most privileged, but it will take more than four months for the Campbell government to think about what it might to do help 135,000 people who depend on income assistance. The months of delay will be months of real suffering for thousands of people, some of whom you see on the street, but few of whom you'll ever see at a ballot box.

 
 

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