Poverty is a problem all over the world, including in Canada. It isn’t a problem with an easy solution but the problem can’t be ignored. The basic income concept is designed to help reduce the number of families living in poverty. While some feel it can work well and others don’t think it will change much, the only way to really know is to get something in motion to find out!
What is the Goal of the Program?
The goal of the basic income program is to offer households living in poverty additional funds by cheque on a monthly basis. Unlike other programs, there won’t be any strings attached or hoops to jump through in order to get the household qualified for the program. With more money, such households will have the means to pay for basic necessities and living expenses.
Approximately 2/3 of the households that will be targeted with this program are the working poor. At least one adult in the household does work but they aren’t bringing in enough income to sustain the needs for the household. They may be working part time or working for minimum wage. If there is a large number of people in the household the funds have to support, it is often stretched too thin.
What is unique about this program is you don’t have to have dependents to qualify. That is often the case with the majority of the programs offered by social services. There are different guidelines and amounts annually a household can qualify for with this program. It doesn’t matter if they are single, a couple, or they have at least one dependent. Therefore, it is worth it to find out the guidelines and if your household qualifies.
Testing the Concept
In order to determine if the basic income concept in Canada can work, a test project is in place. It is a small scale to start, with about 400 households who will receive cheques. This will give them so some research information to work with and it is possible this pilot project can be expanded if the outcome is favorable. If there are problems identified, they will be addressed and the program modified before the pilot continues.
The goal is to expand the pilot group to about 4,000 households and for the testing to last about 3 years. Those in charge admit there are still many unknown factors, and they will be making changes and modifications as they need to throughout this three year span. They want to see the program be a winning concept with a great outcome to households in poverty so they will be watching it all very closely. All funds from the basic income program are tax free.
Finding the households in need for the funding can be a barrier. Currently social services programs and other community agencies are trying to get information on the best candidates. However, there are many people barely getting by one day to the next and even the homeless population who remain under the radar so these entities aren’t able to identify and help them.
Even though applications were sent out to many households before the pilot program started, only a small fraction of them completed the paperwork and returned it. Some were skeptical that the cheques were really going to be a no strings attached concept. It seemed too good to be true so they didn’t complete the paperwork. For others, they didn’t know what the information meant or how to fill out the documents.
Often, those who do work but have a low income coming in don’t think they qualify for such programs. They feel it is a waste of their time to complete the application. Often, they have been declined benefits in the past due to their income, so they continue to fall through the cracks.
The good news though is as information circulates about the program and what it entails, there is an interest for it. Many people are calling social services and other entities to find out how they can get an application so that is encouraging.
Another issue to worry about is the creditors. Will those cheques end up in their pockets? There are concerns they will be adding more garnishments and liens on households because of these extra funds. While the family may owe the money to the creditor, them taking most of the money given to them to assist with getting out of poverty doesn’t offer them the assistance it was intended for.
Often, those living in poverty have a long list of people they owe money to. This can be previous landlords, payday loan lenders, and credit card companies. However, it is possible that with the extra funds such households could work out arrangements with the creditors to get the amounts due paid so that a garnishment or lien doesn’t have to take place. You can’t blame the creditors for trying to do what they legally can to get money owed to them.
Can it Work?
Not everyone is convinced the basic income can work. The biggest concern is the money won’t be used for what it was intended. How can it be verified what the money is spent on? While the households should use it for food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and other needs, what is to stop them from spending in on drugs or alcohol? Some households have a lack of budgeting skills so they have poor money management concepts.
For those households who do need a hand up rather than a hand out, the program may be able to work for them. They may be struggling to make ends meet month after month. As a result, they face the reality of utilities getting cut off, being evicted, not having enough to eat, or even proper clothing for the weather. The additional money can give them a resource to help them alleviate these common problems for those currently living in poverty.
However, Canada is considered to be a rich country, and it seems that there is plenty of funding out there to assist those living in poverty. An additional cheque each month to assist them with some of their basic living expenses can help them to get back on their feet. When they always have more bills coming in than income, it is a vicious cycle to do what they must in order to survive. The program may help them to reduce stress and to live happier lives overall.
The program can get people off the streets, cleaning up various areas around Canada. It isn’t a good sight when you see homeless sleeping on corners or panhandling to get some change to buy something to eat. Crime rates also increase when you have many households living in poverty, with theft being high on the list. The cheque each month can put food on the table and reduce the need to go out there and get what you can by any means possible.
The funds could also help people avoid a life of being locked into low income, dead end jobs without benefits. It may be a solution that opens new opportunities such as the chance to pursue more education to find a better job. It also gives people hope for a future that is brighter than what they are involved with right now. It can help to create unity where everyone feels like they are a part of a productive society in Canada. Helping those in poverty helps everyone in the end!