August 10, 2016 7:45 pm
Updated: August 11, 2016 4:34 pm

‘My fridge is empty, all the time’: Sask. woman responds to government changes to income benefits

WATCH ABOVE: Some people on social support programs will need to tighten their purse strings. The province said it is moving forward with changes to its social income assistance programs. The changes may mean less money for some to pay for basic necessities like rent and groceries. As Christa Dao explains, the revisions have one Saskatchewan woman wondering where she'll find her next meal.

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Some people relying on social support programs will need to tighten their purse strings as the province said it’s moving forward with changes to social assistance programs.

According to the province, approximately 1,500 Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability Program (SAID) clients, or 10 per cent of the case load, receiving money from SAID and rental housing assistance will be impacted.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan government reducing income benefits for disabled people

Among the impacted people is Tracy Hassman who has degenerative disc disease. Steel plates in her spine made it difficult for her to work in her trade as a server. She went on the disability program in June 2013.

She takes about 25 pills every day for her symptoms.

“There’s days I just sit here and cry because it just hurts. I don’t do anything, I just sit… I just sit here because it hurts so bad,” Hassman said, adding on a scale of 1-10, she would rate her pain at 50.

Hassman’s currently receiving cheques from the province under the SAID and support for her rent under the Rental Housing Supplement Program.

On Monday, Hassman received a letter from the province saying she will be affected by changes to the SAID program, beginning October.

However the province on Thursday said they will be slowing down the process to accommodate the clients affected and make sure that there needs are met.

According to Hassman, she will lose $150 of her rental supplement income. It’s money she was using to pay for a limited amount of groceries.

“My fridge is empty, all the time. Totally empty,” she said.

“I haven’t slept, since I got the letter. I’ve been in tears on and off for the last two days, I’m just… I’m just a nervous wreck.”

The government said the changes would increase equity and fairness and address the problem of duplicate benefits paying for the same need twice.

“In some cases right now, we have some receiving more for shelter than their rent is, because they’ve stacked or double dipped,” Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said Tuesday.

However, anti-poverty advocates said that’s not the reality for many under social assistance.

“They’re having to tie together these programs all of which are inadequate to come close to meeting their basic needs,” Peter Gilmer, advocate for Regina’s Anti-Poverty Ministry, said.

“Making vulnerable people more vulnerable is not fairness and equity. That’s a terrible use of language frankly,” he said.

Her daughter Tara Hassman launched an online petition calling for more support for the province’s disabled people

“It kills me… She’s the stronger woman I’ve known my entire life, and to see her break down like that, I want to cry,” she emotionally replied.

The online petition has 142 signatures as of Wednesday evening. The target goal is 5,000 signatures.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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