Saskatchewan’s two long-running income assistance programs are scheduled to end next month, and thousands of people are still participating despite the gradual introduction of the new consolidated option.
The provincial Department of Social Services reconfirmed in an email to Global New on Thursday that it plans to close the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and the Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA) on August 31. the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program introduced two summers ago to continue receiving benefits.
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“We have and will continue to reach out to clients,” Department of Social Services executive director of services and program design Doris Morrow said in a statement.
“This included sending several letters, making phone calls and arranging meetings to make sure households know they need to apply for SIS to avoid disruption in their benefits.
“If clients do not apply for SIS, the ministry will assume they no longer need income assistance and their benefits will be suspended.
The most recent data made available by the ministry indicate that in May 2021, around 15,300 households were benefiting from SAP / TEA and SIS. Of these, 7,000 were on SAP / TEA, while approximately 8,300 were on SIS.
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These numbers worry the Saskatchewan Landlord Association, said the organization’s CEO, Cameron Choquette.
“There is a huge workload,” he said in a Zoom interview.
SIS was designed to give those who are part of it more control over their spending in order to propel them towards financial independence.
Choquette said the first indications are that not everyone is prepared with the financial literacy skills to make it happen.
“The biggest concern there is obviously the stability of the housing because without rent payments made consistently, the risk of eviction increases dramatically,” he said.
Where the old program allocated rent payments directly to landlords, SIS lets tenants do it themselves.
“We’ve heard from some of our members that compared to previous years, rent arrears among Income Assistance clients have increased by 20 to 40 percent,” Choquette said.
“It’s a really tough place for a number of our landlords who have provided affordable housing to Income Assistance clients for decades.
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