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This article was published 6/6/2017 (1846 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On Canada Day, more than 7,000 low-income Manitobans in the provincial Rent Assist program will have their rent subsidy cut by three per cent, due to a policy change announced by the provincial government.
Many low-income individuals and poverty advocacy organizations have denounced the decision, while the Pallister government says the rates for rent assistance in the province remain some of the lowest in Canada.
The Rent Assist program is available to low-income individuals, as well as those on Employment and Income Assistance (EIA). Those receiving EIA will not be affected by the change.
One individual who will be affected is 59-year-old Eva Beaudoin of Winnipeg, a retired personal support worker currently on Canadian Pension Plan Disability.
"They’re not thinking of the people who depend on this money to survive, to be able to buy a bit of groceries each month," Beaudoin said.
"They’re not thinking somewhere down the line someone is going to lose their apartment and not be able to afford to get a new one with first month’s rent and a damage deposit."
Beaudoin learned of the change through the mail and was angered those affected will only have one month to prepare for the decrease in assistance.
She characterized the decision as an attack on the province’s poor, many of whom are low-income full-time workers attempting to improve their economic situation.
"The changes are being made to ensure the Rent Assist program continues to help Manitobans most in need and is financially sustainable," said a spokesperson for the province.
The spokesperson was unable to speak further on the issue due to communication restrictions for next week’s byelection.
Rent assistance rates will now be calculated on 28 per cent of monthly income — previously 25 per cent — and 75 per cent of median market rent.
Josh Brandon, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba, disagrees that the decision to reduce funding for the program is fiscally responsible.
"We’ve seen the beginning of an austerity program," Brandon said. "We know from other provinces and jurisdictions that austerity always affects low-income people and doesn’t have the effect of growing the economy."
He believes cutting back funding for poverty reduction efforts will cost the province more in the future, specifically in regards to health-care and social programs.
"This is going to be a very difficult cut for low-income families and individuals," Brandon continued.
"Renters depend on Rent Assist to be able to afford housing costs which are going up very quickly in Winnipeg. Rent Assist has been identified by the government as one of the most important tools they have for getting people out of poverty, so it’s confusing and disconcerting as to why they’ve made this choice."
Beaudoin says she, along with many others affected, feels blindsided and upset with the change in policy.
"They’re playing with people’s lives," Beaudoin said. "People’s lives are on the line and they don’t know the effect this will have on them. They depend on this money. They need this money."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.