Income is a key factor that affects our health and well-being.
Low income – or poverty – can lead to many problems. When people do not have enough income to pay for basic necessities such as food, housing and other goods and services, they are more likely to have health problems and die younger than people with higher incomes. In Northumberland County, we see how poverty takes a human and social toll that hurts the community and leads to higher health care costs.
The old ways of reducing poverty do not work, and new approach is needed to fix the problem. Thankfully, the Ontario government has taken a major step forward with the announcement of a Basic Income Guarantee pilot project (www.ontario.ca/basicincome) starting later this year in Hamilton/Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay.
Under the Basic Income pilot, eligible individuals and families – regardless of their work status – would receive a minimum annual income. Basic Income would apply to individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 years, whether they collect social assistance, disability benefits or work in a low-wage job. Under the Ontario plan, single adults will receive up to $16,989 annually and couples will receive up to $24,027 each year. People on disability will receive up to an additional $6,000 per year. Recipients who are employed will keep what they make from their jobs, with their Basic Income payments decreasing by half of the amount that they make while working.
The Basic Income isn’t extravagant; the proposed amount is only equivalent to 75 per cent of what is considered Ontario’s low-income threshold (or poverty line). However, Basic Income can make a real difference in helping people pay their bills and improve their education and job prospects.
Canada already has a form of Basic Income. When seniors collect Old Age Security at age 65, low-income seniors who qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) have their income topped up to ensure they have a minimum level of income. The GIS has been vital in reducing poverty rates among seniors in Canada.
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