From barely surviving to thriving with basic income

Toronto Star

Margie Goold, who suffers debilitating arthritis, bought a new walker.

Lance Dingman, who lost his right leg to a chronic bone disease, is no longer running out of groceries by the middle of the month.

Wendy Moore, who has been homeless for almost two years, is looking for an apartment.

The three Hamilton residents are part of the first wave of participants in Ontario’s experiment with basic income, a monthly, no-strings-attached payment of up to $1,400 for people living in poverty. Those with disabilities receive an additional $500 a month.

The three-year pilot project, which began in the Hamilton and Thunder Bay areas last summer and in Lindsay last fall, is testing whether unconditional cash support can boost health, education and housing for people on social assistance or earning low wages.

Information gleaned from the three test sites will guide future provincial policy on how to better support all Ontarians living in poverty.

The province is among several areas in the world experimenting with the idea of a basic income, including Finland, which began a two-year pilot last January.

After couch-surfing for almost two years, Moore, 60, is using her basic income payment to look for stable housing.

“My biggest focus is getting my own place and giving poor John his apartment back,” said Moore, who has been sleeping on her friend’s living room sofa for about a year.

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