Pandemic renews calls for a basic income Huron and Perth counties

(Left to right) Ryan Erb - Perth Huron United Way Executive Director; Jim Ginn - Huron County Warden; Meighan Wark - Huron County C.A.O.; Anne Coleman - United Way Campaign Chair; Lara Van Stone - Huron County Human Resources Director. (photo by Bob Montgomery)

The Huron Perth Public Health Board of Health is once again calling for a basic income, which the Huron Perth United Way pegs at $17.55 an hour

Huron Perth Medical Officer of Health Dr. Miriam Klassen said low income has a long-term, negative impact on health, and the pandemic has made the situation worse.

She said the Huron Perth Public Health Board of Health is revisiting a report, that shows half the households in Huron and Perth Counties earn less than the living wage

She added that the pandemic showed just a small loss of income has a big impact on people’s ability to meet basic needs.

“We’re seeing that people need various types of support to get them through this time, as they can’t go to work.”

She said a basic income is payment made directly to people with low income, whether or not they work for pay. It would help people meet their needs, participate in society and live with dignity.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2020, the HPPH Board of Health noted that the federal government already gives money to some people living with low income such as people with children, and seniors. Basic Income would cover working-age adults living with low incomes.

Chair of the HPPH Board of Health, Kathy Vassilakos, said Basic Income isn’t a new idea.

“Studies from around the world, including in Canada, show that providing people with a basic income has a positive impact on important social goals like reducing poverty, boosting local economies, increasing community participation and improving health.”

Poverty to Prosperity (P2P), Huron’s anti-poverty coalition, has been a strong advocate for Basic Income. P2P co-chair Pam Hanington says that Basic Income would: “Significantly reduce poverty in Huron and Perth, especially for people currently relying on inadequate provincial income assistance programs.”

The rollout of the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) has shown that the government can deliver Basic Income. The board’s reports said costing models show that it is affordable. Basic Income is supported by economists, health professionals, and businesses.  Fifty members of the Canadian Senate have called for the CERB to transition to a permanent Basic Income.

Vassilakos says, “Basic income is an important way we can improve people’s health and social conditions, and support our local economy.”