Cost of living: NS announces support for low-income residents

The Government of Nova Scotia has announced a support package worth $13.2 million to help low-income Nova Scotians as gas prices and the cost of living continue to rise.

The funding, announced by the province Thursday, includes:

  • A one-time payment of $150 to all current income assistance recipients, including Disability Support Program participants receiving income support. For example, a single parent on income assistance with three children will receive $600.
  • A one-time payment of $150 to all currently eligible recipients of the Heating Assistance Rebate Program. The payment is expected to be made by the end of April.
  • $1 million to Feed Nova Scotia to distribute among its 140 food banks provincewide.
  • $200,000 to local food banks across the province, which are not part of the Feed Nova Scotia network.

“We made a number of announcements, including as recently as this morning,” said Premier Tim Houston.

“We announced changes to the HARP program, and we announced support for food banks. We’ve been making a number of changes to support Nova Scotians and we’ll continue to do that.”

“This is a challenging time for Nova Scotians living on lower incomes,” said Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane in a news release Thursday.

“Current global events have introduced significant volatility and are driving up basic living expenses for many families, individuals and seniors. They are working hard to stretch their income to make ends meet and this support will make a difference.”

The province says payments to eligible recipients of income assistance and the Disability Support Program will be processed next week.

People who receive assistance through this year’s Heating Assistance Rebate Program will automatically receive the extra $150 payment.

According to the province, the income threshold to qualify for the heating rebate program is $29,000 for single-income households and $44,000 for family-income households.

Nova Scotians are still able to apply to the program online and through Access Nova Scotia, and Community Services and MLA offices until March 31.

“Record high fuel prices have created challenges and put financial strain on many Nova Scotians, especially those with low incomes,” said Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services Minister Colton LeBlanc.

“We recognize the impact this is having so we are increasing the rebate we give through the Heating Assistance Rebate program so we can provide more financial help.”

Thursday’s funding announcement is expected to help over 35,000 people who rely on income assistance, as well as over 2,700 Disability Support Program clients.

OPPOSITION LEADERS SAY IT’S NOT ENOUGH

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill says the new support package is not enough.

“Well, it raises the line on your (gas) tank a little bit, but it doesn’t get you near what you need to have,” he said.

Burrill says the Houston government either doesn’t grasp the urgency of the affordability issue or is ignoring it.

“At some level, they’ve got their focus and their mind’s somewhere else and he speaks about it as something that is really beyond the government’s reach,” said Burrill.

“But in fact, it ought to be right, square in front of their noses.”

Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Iain Rankin said he’s looking for action on the issue from government.

“Today, we’ve seen some programs for low-income, but all Nova Scotians are struggling,” said Rankin.

“I think we should be seeing more when it comes to fuel and Nova Scotia Power, which we addressed today. We introduced a bill about food security today but we’ll be talking about affordability the whole session.”

In Quebec, the government is giving $500 to those who earn less than $100,000.

Houston said his government will look at all possibilities, but was short on specifics.

“The impacts are very broad and far-reaching, we understand that,” said Houston. “We’ll do what we can within the restraints that are in front of us.”

As of Thursday, Nova Scotians in the Halifax area were paying a minimum price of $1.66 per liter for regular gasoline and $1.93 per liter for diesel.

RALLY OUTSIDE PROVINCE HOUSE

A group of protesters gathered outside Province House Thursday, calling on the government to include more anti-poverty measures on its agenda.

Those in the group, called “Justice for Workers Nova Scotia,” say with the cost of living going up, the government has a key role in alleviating and preventing poverty.

“We need some major interventions from all levels of government, but certainly provincial, into housing,” said Suzanne MacNeil, a group member of Justice for Workers Nova Scotia. “We need affordable, non-market housing, absolutely urgently.”

“The attending problems of poverty are one of the biggest social determinants of health,” said Jacob Wilson, a rally supporter.

“And if you want to care about improving health care and addressing health outcomes for Nova Scotians, you need to address their wages, you need to address their cost of living.”

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