Basic Income Project lifts those under poverty line

by | Nov 18, 2016 | Biz/Tech

Murissa Barrington

BIZ/TECH REPORTER

Charlene Cruzat-Whervin says if she had enough money she could work less and focus on improving her grades.

The second year fitness and health promotion student is like many others at Humber College who work part-time jobs while in school. Cruz-Whervin says working minimum wage, $11.75 an hour for most people, puts a strain on her finances.

This one of many stories heard across the province that highlight the high costs of living in Ontario and the people struggling to keep up with it. The provincial government is thinking of ways to change all of that.

The Basic Income project would provide residents a guaranteed income bringing them within 75 per cent of the Low Income Measure (LIM), regardless of whether the individual is working or not. People who receive financial assistance from Ontario Works only reach 45 per cent of the Low Income Measure.

Alexus Morey is a first year paralegal student who makes $14 an hour and says even for her, having money left over after paying bills can be difficult.

“From 18 (years old) on I’ve had to pay for everything myself. I have a car and I’m in school so every month I’d say I get $200 to myself,” said Morey. “Everything’s gone. So it’s difficult and I’m even getting paid $14 an hour so you could imagine what it’s like for people making less.”

Morey says a proposal like this could be a great help for someone like her aunt who doesn’t receive enough support for her disability.

“I have an aunt that is legally blind. So for her to have it would be amazing because obviously she can’t work at all, she can’t find anything to help her so I just think putting their needs before anyone else’s is important,” Morey said.

For someone like Morey’s aunt, the Basic Income Supplement would mean her current Ontario Disability Support Program amount of $13,536 per year, would increase to $22,989 per year. According to Statistics Canada, the Low Income Measure for a single person household in 2014 was $21,773 meaning this Basic Income Supplement might actually put people just above the poverty line.

Humber College Business professor Steve Bang, offered some insight on the Basic Income trial run. Bang agrees that an idea such as the Basic Income Project could potentially provide much needed help to those who are living below the poverty line.

“I think it’s a positive thing if instead of paying people little bits here and there, having people have to apply to this and apply to that,” said Bang. “They can come up with a system which is called the Guaranteed Income System where they roll that all into one and the individual will be able to get one cheque from one area of the government and that covers everything.”

When considering the effects that this would have on the economy, Bang said there likely won’t be a drastic difference in how it already is. However, Bang says if anything the demand for rental housing will increase when the number of eligible renters inevitably goes up.

“Some people right now actually share properties because they can’t afford to live alone. So once they get a guaranteed minimum they’ll have enough money whereby they can get their own place and therefore there’s going to be a demand for rental properties,” said Bang. “But I don’t think it will affect the first time buyer housing market although you might see some people buying houses to rent them out.”