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This article was published 17/4/2019 (349 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Groups trying to help Manitobans get out of poverty are giving the province a failing grade.
The Manitoba government released its renewed poverty reduction strategy — Pathways to a Better Future — in March, followed by a provincial budget. Neither lived up to the expectations of the Make Poverty History Manitoba coalition.
"There are no new initiatives introduced in the plan and no new funding in the budget to address poverty," says the coalition report, titled Failing Grade: Manitoba Poverty Reduction Strategy and Budget 2019.
"With the strategy announced last month, and recent news this week of cuts in EIA (Employment and Income Assistance program), it's clear the province is lacking any serious vision and action to reduce poverty," Make Poverty History chairman Michael Barkman said Tuesday.
"There's been change after change that's not addressing the problem and reducing poverty. It's exacerbating it in Manitoba. They get a failing grade because we're not seeing the leadership needed to address the problem... (For example), they're cutting key services and the repair budget for Manitoba Housing and decreasing the Rent Assist program."
Just this week, Barkman said, Manitobans learned the province is cutting the $25-a-month, job-seeking allowance for general social assistance recipients, effective May 1.
"It's going to hit them hard," said Harold Dyck with the Low Income Intermediary Project, who for the last 20 years has worked with thousands of people receiving assistance.
That $25 means a lot to single person receiving just $195 a month for living expenses, including food, clothing and transportation who is expected to do active job searches 20 times per week to qualify for benefits, he said.
"The daily food budget is $3.96, and the longer you try to survive at that kind of rate — even with support from Winnipeg Harvest (food bank) — the longer you go with an improper diet, the more you see malnutrition."
Dyck, a 66-year-old pensioner, said the province should be investing in programs that move people from welfare to skilled jobs so they're paying taxes. "We have a record number of people on welfare right now."
A Manitoba Families annual report showed 72,000 people on assistance as of March 31, 2018 — an increase from 55,000 a decade ago, he said, adding, at the same time, Manitoba has a shortage of skilled labour.
The province's poverty reduction strategy mentions getting people off assistance and into jobs, but doesn't spell out a plan for doing it, said Dyck. "If we invest in a long-term employment strategy, in the long term everybody is better off."
Many people living in poverty are trapped in a downward spiral trying to survive from day to day, says the Make Poverty History Manitoba report. They're unable to access affordable housing, education, training and well-paying jobs.
Not having a comprehensive plan to reduce poverty comes with a price, the coalition says: addictions, lower quality of life, poor health outcomes, barriers to participation in education and the workforce, incarceration, criminalization and family separation.
Manitoba can end poverty "by setting bold targets and timelines supported by financial commitments outlined in its budgets," the report says.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Updated on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 9:55 AM CDT: Adds corrected version of report