A Call to Action from the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry During this Time of Pandemic
Summary: This pandemic has shut down many of the supports for the most vulnerable. Please: contact the provincial government and ask for an immediate increase in social assistance rates. Read on for full background, the action request, and some information about who we are. We thank you for using your care and voice to answer this call with a short, direct message to your provincial government. Please share this action widely.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant challenges for all of us –physical, emotional, spiritual, and for many, financial. People have lost jobs and seen reduced hours, all during a time of stress and concern.
The federal government is seeking to respond to the needs of people who have had their livelihoods affected by this collective crisis, and this is to be applauded. However, we fear that people living in poverty, everywhere, including here in Saskatchewan are already vulnerable and are in an even more difficult situation right now.
Background: Why this concern?
In July of 2019, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced SIS, the newly formed Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) Program. When this program was introduced, it initially appeared that the government was increasing benefits. But in reality, this was a decrease.
Previous programs (which SIS seeks to replace) were inadequate in terms of real cost of rent, but did at least cover the full cost of utilities such as water, energy, power, and allotted $30.00/month for phones. Under SIS, shelter rates in Regina and Saskatoon are $575/month for singles, $750/month for childless couples, $975/month for families with 1-2 children, and $1150/month for families of 3 or more children, and this must cover both rent and utilities!
The shelter rates for the rest of the province are: $525/month for singles, $650/month for childless couples, $750 for families with 1-2 children, and $850/month for 3 or more children; again, this is rent and utilities!
The Basic Allowance, which is to cover food, clothing, household needs, personal needs and travel, is $285 per adult in most of Saskatchewan, but in Northern Saskatchewan is $350 per adult. No child is covered for basic needs on any social assistance program in Saskatchewan.
Could you live on this? Could you care for your family?
Would this be adequate for your needs at the best of times?
What about now?
At this moment, additional supports, food banks and meal programs (such as the ones operated by many United Church Communities of Faith) are stretched, and some have ceased operations. School breakfast and lunch programs are shut down, and while some alternatives are emerging, access is not as straightforward as they were when schools were operating.
Our most vulnerable are more vulnerable than they were a month ago.
Assistance that was inadequate is even more so in a changed social context today.
We are asking for your help.
Recognizing that neither you nor we could navigate this trying moment with the level of support that we have laid out above, we believe we cannot allow others to have to try to do so!
What you can do
We are asking you to call upon the Ministry of Social Services to:
- Take this opportunity of collective crisis to immediately increase the rates of SIS, and other Social Assistance Programs in the Province to reflect the full true cost of shelter, utilities and basic needs in our communities.
- Ensure that when the crisis is over that these rates remain at a level sufficient to cover actual expenses.
- Commit that people living on Social Assistance will receive the attention needed to ensure that benefits are distributed in a timely manner at all times, but especially in this moment of crisis.
Poverty in Saskatchewan, for people living on social assistance, is fixable, because it has been legislated. Change the policies and enact new legislation, and people will have what they need.
This action was written as we moved into Holy Week 2020. In this time and at all times, we travel with Jesus into Jerusalem and watch how his courageous stance against oppression leads him to the cross, and beyond that to an empty tomb.
Can we likewise move through this moment of fear and confusion, and into a resurrection time of Jubilee for the people of Saskatchewan living in poverty?
We can see it. Will you join us in making this a possibility?
Contact: The Honourable Paul Merriman – Minister of Social Services
Room 303, Legislative Building, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina, SK, Canada, S4S 0B3
Telephone (306) 787-3661
Also, please CC or write directly to your local MLA and ask that they carry this message forward. Short and clear is best! If your faith is leading you to respond to this action, please note that as you feel able.
Who we are, and supporting us
The Existence Of Poverty Is Shameful – To Be Poor Is Not!
The Anti-Poverty Ministry of the Living Skies Regional Council is based in Regina, SK on Treaty 4 Territory. We’re a United Church ministry and we advocate with and for the most vulnerable people in Saskatchewan. Our offices may be in Regina, but our clients are from all over the province. Our two ministers, Bonnie Morton and Peter Gilmer, respond on behalf of people living in poverty to issues of income assistance cutoffs and denials, evictions, and inadequate benefits. With our client base so broadly spread, much of our work takes place on the phone with the Ministry Call Centre. Our operations continue during the COVID-19 with client meetings having been shifted to phone, text and email.
Your financial support for this ministry is much appreciated.
Donations can be made to the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, 2330 Victoria Ave., Regina, Sask., S4P 0S6. Our phone number is (306) 352-6386.