CERB payments could cost Saskatoon's most vulnerable their social assistance
The Lighthouse Supported Living in downtown Saskatoon.
SASKATOON -- Some of the city’s most vulnerable may be left empty-handed and without a home after social assistance applications were denied.
According to a representative from Lighthouse Supported Living, some tenants have noted how their social assistance applications were denied by the Ministry of Social Services after learning they had been receiving money from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) introduced by Ottawa to help those who lost income due to the pandemic.
“Basically they’re going to be cut off their social assistance because they’ve taken CERB payment so when they go to apply for funding, they’re ineligible now until they’ve used up the amount of funding from the CERB they’ve taken,” said Anna Pacik, communications and fundraising manager with the Lighthouse.
Pacik added without social assistance payments some tenants may not be able to pay rent, leaving them homeless.
A more rigorous CERB application process would have helped prevent this “perfect storm,” as she calls it.
“Part of the problem is that it was made very easy to apply and we at the Lighthouse wish they had added one more question to help people to self identify as taking social assistance and have something on the form to say if you are on social assistance you are not able to get CERB and you shouldn’t be applying,” Pacik said.
“But we have a lot of folks with mental health issues and intellectual disabilities who maybe don’t understand all of those processes and rules around that so it was really easy for them to apply so they did.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Social Services said it works with clients who may be eligible for CERB to help them understand how this payment may impact their income assistance benefits.
“CERB is considered a non-exempt income and will be deducted from income assistance benefits dollar-for-dollar, like Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan. If CERB income exceeds a client’s needs, the client will not receive provincial income assistance benefits for that period of time.”
The ministry added it will work with social assistance clients on a case by case basis to ensure basic needs are being met.
Pacik believes that is the appropriate step to make sure all the hard work that has gone into housing people doesn’t unravel.