Ontario’s basic income pilot project enrols 400 people, so far

TheStar.com – News/Queen’s Park – Plan is to eventually have 4,000 people in several locations taking part across the province.
Oct. 4, 2017.   By

Ontario has so far enrolled 400 people in the Hamilton and Thunder Bay areas for its basic income pilot project — with half of them single mothers, and two-thirds of participants in low-wage jobs.

In total, the government is hoping to sign up 4,000 participants — 2,000 in Hamilton/ Brantford/Brant County and Thunder Bay — as well as 2,000 in Lindsay, where provincial recruiters will begin next week to enroll low-wage workers and those on social assistance, providing them with stable income through monthly payments on top of a portion of what they earn.

Lindsay will soon begin enrolling low-income earners and participants who are on social assistance, providing them with stable income through monthly payments on top of a portion of what they earn.

About 30 per cent of the initial group are on social assistance and the rest the working poor “which is really important for us as well, because of the precarious work situation,” said Helena Jaczek, the province’s minister of community and social services.

Peter Milczyn, the minister responsible for poverty reduction, said efforts are being made to sign up participants because the pilot is “such a paradigm shift from what people are used to … it really is taking a lot of outreach in the community, a lot of one-on-one answering of questions so people understand what it is they could sign up for.”

He said about half of current participants are single mothers, and a quarter are two-parent families with kids. “Those are the kinds of groups that we were expecting, so it’s good that it’s validating our initial suppositions.”

The three-year pilot will be independently assessed by researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital and McMaster University.

The program provides a single person up to almost $17,000 a year, and a couple $24,027, on top of half of whatever they earn through employment.

At Queen’s Park, NDP MPP Paul Miller said the basic income amounts “are not adequate for the participants and could keep them struggling in poverty if the basic income is subject to garnishments and debt collections” and questioned why “anyone who signs up for the basic income project may be subject to garnishments and debt collections on that income.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne said changes will be made.

“It is a pilot project,” she said during Question Period. “This has not been done for decades. It has been talked about for 30 or 35 years, but no government has, until now — until our Liberal government, no government has taken it upon themselves to actually put a pilot in place to find out whether this is something that can help people. We’re doing that, and we are working very hard with the researchers to get it right.”

Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown said 400 seems like a low number “but that said, I’m going to have an open mind to the results for this multi-year project … I’m not going to prejudge anything before we see the results.”

The pilot is budgeted to cost $50 million a year, and part of the government’s look at whether guaranteeing a basic income can boost health, education and housing for those on social assistance or earning low wages.

https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/10/04/ontarios-basic-income-pilot-project-enrols-400-people-so-far.html

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