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