An increase to BC disability and welfare rates will improve the lives of those living in poverty, but more help is needed, according to local poverty advocates.
Premier John Horgan announced on Thursday, July 20, that his government would be following through with its election promises of raising monthly welfare and disability rates by $100.
The increases will take effect on September 20 and cost the province $180 million per year.
April marked 10 years since the last time the government raised the basic assistance rate. Currently, a single person receives $610 per month and a single parent with one child receives $946 a month. Those monthly rates will go up by $100, as will the current BC disability assistance rate of $1,033.
Powell River Community Resource Centre manager Martyn Woolley said the added money will help his clients, but more is needed as a tight rental market has contributed to increased cost of living.
Woolley said he is looking for the new government to follow through with its promises and step up to reduce the amount of poverty in the community.
“We’ve gone through a very lean time with the Liberal government, which had a different focus,” said Woolley. “When they start talking about the how much money is left over as surplus, all I can say is that you made that off the backs of poor people.”
Powell River resident Laurie Clark receives disability assistance and said she appreciates the increase.
“It will help,” said Clark, who said her rent was just increased by the same $100. “I’m impressed, but I’m hoping that it’s not just a gesture of goodwill and then we never hear from the provincial government again.”
Clark said before the premier’s announcement she thought she would be paying for her recent rent increase from her monthly food budget.
According to statements made by Horgan, the $100 raise in assistance is only a beginning and the provincial government is planning on bringing forward a comprehensive child and family poverty reduction plan.
Inclusion Powell River executive director Lilla Tipton said she is impressed that the new NDP government has moved to prioritize the rate increase.
“It's amazing and wonderful that the government has chosen to move on that so quickly," said Tipton. "It's still significantly low, however, and BC has a significantly high living cost."