CERB proves it’s time for basic income, says economist

University of Manitoba News

A UM economist says that government assistance for people whose livelihood has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic shows that it may be time for universal basic income.

Dr. Evelyn Forget, who has long studied basic income as a means of reducing poverty, says that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), introduced by the Canadian government last month, proves that existing income security programs such as Employment Insurance (EI) are inadequate.

Dr. Forget is in community health sciences at UM and academic director of the Manitoba Research Data Centre. She is an adjunct scientist with the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and a research associate with Ongomiizwin – Research in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

In recent interviews and editorials, she has argues that measures taken by government during the pandemic show that a universal basic income program is overdue. Critics of such programs have stated that red tape would delay payments to individuals, but the rapid delivery of CERB cheques proves the opposite.

She explains: “The upfront costs of a targeted basic income are much lower than sending everyone a cheque. It’s also a more affordable plan, especially if we take into account the savings to other social programs such as EI, provincial income assistance and the additional burden that poverty places on other programs such as health care.”

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