The poorest Manitobans are getting poorer.
"Life is getting harder for the poorest Manitobans, especially for single people and people with disabilities living alone who depend on Employment and Income Assistance," said Michael Barkman of Make Poverty History Manitoba.
The group wants the Manitoba government to increase welfare rates in its April 7 budget.
It says basic EIA rates have not increased for years, while the cost of living has steadily risen. It compared rates year to year and found that people who collect assistance received $137 less in 2020 than they did in 2019. The decrease doesn't account for the increase in costs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, single people with no disability receive a general EIA benefit of $800 a month. The poverty rate is $1,537 a month, according to the Market Basket Measure, a measure of low income based on the cost of a specific basket of goods and services including shelter and transportation for a modest, basic standard of living.
"Our provincial government needs to do more to address the root causes of poverty, ensure all Manitobans can thrive, and help lift people out of poverty through effective social programs and opportunities for meaningful employment," Barkman said.
Families Minister Rochelle Squires said her Progressive Conservative government has "pulled" 32,000 Manitobans out of poverty since being elected in 2016.
"Since we've formed government, our government has increased the EIA budget by 25 per cent," Squires said Thursday. "This fiscal year we are investing $476 million in EIA compared to $383 million when we first took office," she said.
"We know there's more to do and we're going to continue to do it," Squires said.
"On April 7 at the budget, there will be a lot more on how to help Manitobans throughout the pandemic and into the recovery stage, post-pandemic."
The PC government has not done enough to help desperate Manitobans during the pandemic, said the NDP critic for poverty matters.
"They have kept EIA rates at starvation levels and the current rates do not take into account life with COVID," said Danielle Adams. "By not increasing it with inflation, and not taking into account COVID, they're forcing a lot of families to go to food banks," said the MLA for Thompson.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.