Social measures ‘regressive’

Groups appeal to Hamad

By Joel Ceausu

A coalition of community organizations is asking newly appointed Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Sam Hamad to withdraw what they call “five new regressive measures” introduced by the Liberals to the province’s social assistance act.

“The adoption of this draft regulation is claiming to remedy alleged inequities between welfare recipients and the rest of the population, but it will only give the force of law to prejudices,” according to a statement by the group.

Addressing the issue of earned income, Michel Tourigny of the Comité des sans-emploi de Pointe Saint Charles said very few recipients knowingly make false declarations to welfare: “One of our users earns $40 a week cleaning the house of someone with mobility issues. Knowing she is entitled to earn up to $200 a month without having her benefit reduced, she does not declare it to welfare. With the new regulation, welfare will claim all this money she had the right to earn on the basis that she neglected to declare exempted earnings.”

He suggested that if Quebec wants to address tax fraud, it should instead “look at Quebec’s $740 million problem of corporate and personal tax evasion and tax avoidance, instead of lashing out at the most impoverished people in our society.”

The measures also penalize recipients with roommates not included in a lease, assuming they draw a profit from cohabitation, which critics say will create more homelessness by penalizing people trying to reduce their housing costs.

Jean Lalande of the Welfare Rights Committee of South West Montreal says “In good faith, the government should know that a person with two roommates in a 5½ is not running a rooming house.”

The group is also condemning a measure they maintain will force people to choose between social assistance benefits and the possibility of undergoing drug addiction treatment, and the “dehumanization” of reintegration services.

The organizations are calling on Hamad to implement changes “that would actually support people so that they can move out of poverty,” such as abolishing the clawback of child support payments, acknowledging needs of adults living in couples (one person, one cheque) and increasing the allowable work income of people receiving assistance.

Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Sam Hamad

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