Local organizations push for Basic Income Guarantee

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force is working with the Grey Bruce Community Safety and Well-Being Planning (CSWBP) Action Table, which has identified poverty and income as a priority.

In fact, the action table has heard from many community members concerned about their ability to pay bills, meet basic needs, and access financial support.

Poverty Task Force Co-ordinator Jill Umbach said they are focusing on income stability to support struggling residents.

"A campaign is out around an income solution to food insecurity," she added. "Income security is what we want to focus on, an income solution to try and address things like being able to afford housing or being able to afford food."

Umbach pointed out there's a seniors' supplement, and a child tax benefit for families, but nothing to help workers who are not making enough to get by.

"Where we have people on low wages, and they're just not getting by," she said. "And so right now, there's a lot of cost calculation going on to say, you know, the system is supporting and spending a lot of money for people that are experienced in challenges. But what can we do to go and be more proactive, more preventative?"

A few hundred participants gathered in Ottawa this week at the inaugural Basic Income Guarantee Forum, as activists continue to push for a solution to poverty. Umbach said the group looked at the costing of doing more preventative support than reactive support to people.

"Because a lot of work and money is going to things like providing emergency food, when we really should be focusing on preventative, ensuring people have enough income to be able to purchase food and to be able to afford their rent and pay their utilities in a dignified manner," she continued. "That's a huge shift in the system that we see would actually save money in the cost calculation, rather than spend a lot of money in response to people being in trouble."

Umbach stressed poverty is impacting community well being.

"What we really need to do is get back to looking at people's income level, their ability to purchase and pay for rent and utilities," she stressed. "There's a lot of other aspects people also need support for, when it comes to mental health and addiction issues, with a lot more resources required in that sector as well. But at a minimum, we need to ensure that people can afford to stay housed and people can afford to pay their utilities and purchase food."

Umbach urged all levels of government to start addressing the issue in a different manner.

"We have been advocating and supporting municipalities to support the province around increases to Ontario Works and to ODSP Ontario Disability Support Program, as well, recognizing that those rates have not been raised for many years, and that people really are struggling to cover the basics," she concluded. "And people are struggling to cover their rent. And that leaves some very little money to be able to pay for food and other things."

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