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7,000 people on income assistance could see ‘break in their benefits’ as Sask. switches programs

Click to play video: '7,000 people on income assistance could see ‘a break in their benefits’ as Sask. switches programs' 7,000 people on income assistance could see ‘a break in their benefits’ as Sask. switches programs
WATCH: Two long-running Saskatchewan social assistance programs are expected to come to an end at the end of next month. Despite the newer consolidated option that the government has been phasing in, thousands of people are still on them — and a Roberta Bell reports, there are concerns that some people could fall through the cracks. – Jul 8, 2021

Two long-running Saskatchewan income assistance programs are expected to come to an end next month, with thousands of people still on them despite the newer consolidated option being phased in.

The provincial Ministry of Social Services reconfirmed in an email to Global New on Thursday that it plans to close out the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA) on Aug. 31. People relying on these older streams need to apply to the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program introduced two summers ago to continue receiving benefits.

Read more: Saskatchewan launches new income support program

“We have and will continue to reach out to clients,” Ministry of Social Services executive director of program service and design Doris Morrow said in a statement.

“This has included sending several letters, making phone calls and arranging meetings to make sure households know they have to apply for SIS to avoid a break in their benefits.

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“If clients do not apply for SIS, the ministry will assume they no longer need income assistance and their benefits will be put on hold.”

The most recent data made available by the ministry indicates that as of May 2021, about 15,300 households were receiving SAP/TEA and SIS. Of them, 7,000 were on SAP/TEA, while about 8,300 were on SIS.

Read more: Saskatchewan social services put support on hold, closed files for some CERB recipients

These figures have the Saskatchewan Landlord Association concerned, said the organization’s CEO, Cameron Choquette.

“There’s a tremendous caseload,” he said in a Zoom interview.

SIS was designed to give the people on it more control over their spending to propel them toward financial independence.

Choquette said early indications are that not everybody is prepared with the financial literacy skills to get there.

“The biggest concern there is obviously the stability of housing because without rental payments made consistently, the risk of eviction increases dramatically,” he said.

Where the older programming allocated rental payments directly to landlords, SIS leaves the tenants to do so themselves.

“We’ve heard from some of our members that compared to previous years, rental arrears among income assistance clients have risen anywhere from 20 to 40 per cent,” Choquette said.

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“It’s a really tough spot for a number of our landlords who have been providing affordable housing for income assistance clients for decades.”

Click to play video: 'Rent issues follow Saskatchewan’s income assistance clawback due to CERB' Rent issues follow Saskatchewan’s income assistance clawback due to CERB
Rent issues follow Saskatchewan’s income assistance clawback due to CERB – Nov 24, 2020

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