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LETTER: Help in budget but need to go further

With the reading of Tuesday’s budget, it feels like the door to change for those living in poverty might have opened a small crack – but a celebration would certainly be premature.

The government will finally put an end to the cruel policy of clawing back child support payments from single parents on Income Assistance. This will mean more much-needed money for parents struggling to make ends meet, and for their children. While the premier only learned of the penalty last fall, Nova Scotians on assistance have been grappling with it for years and advocating for change. For once, their voices haven’t been ignored.

In addition to this, investments to increase the poverty reduction credit, improve public housing and reduce the wait list, and fund domestic violence prevention are other small signs of hope. There will also be changes to allow people on Income Assistance keep more of their employment income.

Despite these positive announcements, what we didn’t see in the budget was an immediate raise to Income Assistance rates so individuals can access adequate food and shelter. The Department of Community Services has said it’s coming, but we hoped government would give it the priority urgently needed to make it happen sooner. This is heartbreaking for thousands of Nova Scotians who will wake up hungry tomorrow.

As the budget was announced, 33 food banks were open, feeding people and helping provide hope and dignity. Feed Nova Scotia and our 146 food banks, meal programs, and shelters are tackling some of the toughest issues – housing, homelessness, mental health, poverty, addictions. This shouldn’t sit right with anyone. Because in no world does it make sense for the biggest problems to fall on the shoulders of non-profits, leaving government to play only a supporting role.

Every day people step up with donations of food and funds, and this is critical. But we also need you to speak up. If the budget truly opened a door to change, now is the time to get our foot in there and wedge it open much further.

Nick Jennery

Feed Nova Scotia

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