When discussions about a basic income guarantee (BIG) gained more attention since the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of CERB, we saw first-hand what a program based on putting money directly into the hands of Canadians was able to do for so many during these difficult times – it prevented many from falling into poverty and let them meet their basic needs.
But a basic income type of program is not a new concept in Canada. The guaranteed income supplement (GIS) has been in effect since 1967 for Canadians over 65 years of age and has research showing the impacts that increased income has on poverty and overall improved health and well-being of these adults. In recent years, the Canada child benefit was established to provide families and caregivers with an income solution to help with costs of raising children.
These successful programs have some features of a basic income guarantee. For example, they are distributed with dignity. You receive them if your income tax return indicates you are eligible. You don’t have to apply as part of a "target group"; or go through every detail of your finances, living situation, or employment history with an income support worker who determines your eligibility.
However, the guaranteed income supplement and the Canada child benefit are only available based on a person’s age, and they are not given out at a level that meets basic needs.
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