Sunday, September 18, 2005

THis is NOT Right

I learned this week that under the Ontario Works program (Social Assistance) a single person currently recieves $536 a month at most (of that $325 is designated for shelter). Can you imagine trying to live on that amount of cash? Can you imagine finding basic housing for $325 in a city like Toronto? This is just plain not enough, surely we can do better. (I found a link with the grid of payments. You can find it here.)

This morning in worship we read the story of manna and quail in the wilderness, where everybody gets what they need to eat for the day. We also read about a landowner with a very unique method of paying his workers. Again everybody got what they needed for that day. Had I been preaching on these stories (it was the kick-off Sunday of our Stewardship campaign so I was talking about Stewardship) I think I would have talked about the idea of a Guaranteed Annual Income. I have been in many discussions at Presbytery and Conference meetigs about minimum wage and raising it to a Living Wage. Basic economics suggest that this will never work but would simply prove to be inflationary. Instead we should look at GAI. GAI can work in a combination of wage earnings and governmental support--as it stands now those base (and inadequate) assistance payments are clawed back as soon as you earn above a certain threshold. Under GAI we can determine what is needed for a base quality of life and ensure that people get what they need to survive. OF course what that amount will be will vary according to where the individuals live (some places are more expensive than others). Unfortuantely it has little chance of happening because many will say "it costs too much". WHat exactly is the "allowable" price of letting people live in dignity?

1 comment:

  1. Most of my students (like 99.99%) are OW receivers, and I can tell you that even in relatively cheaper (than TO) Thunder Bay, they barely scrape by. Many come to school hungry. Part of our work is to provide occasional Community Kitchens, where we take food money out of our program budgets and cook up a good, hearty meal like a stew or chili. Parents with kids get to take home containers for their families.

    In the course of my job, I've been in touch with OW workers, and found them human, and trying to do their best. But the ghost of Mike Harris still haunts the system, and the "squeeze" mentality is still very much a part of it.