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Basic Income: Building a Better Community for All

Lack of a Basic Income is a pressing issue across Perth-Huron. The effects, and challenges people face, often go unnoticed but they are profound and long lasting — and COVID-19 has made things worse.

“The need for a Basic Income has existed for a long time,” says Joelle Lamport-Lewis, Director of Research at United Way Perth-Huron’s Social Research and Planning Council (SRPC). “Because of the number of people whose lives have been impacted by the pandemic, that need has become clearer. We’re glad to see momentum building across the social and political spectrum, in part because of the relative success of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The SRPC is committed to working locally to help advance the discussion. I encourage everyone to read our report.”

A Basic Income is an unconditional cash transfer from government to individuals enabling everyone to meet their basic needs, participate in society and live with dignity regardless of employment status. Around the world, a Basic Income is becoming recognized as an effective way to help eliminate income and wealth inequalities, reduce or eliminate poverty and economic insecurity, improve health for individuals, address gender equality and transform the relationship between people and work.

Locally, the SRPC has been heavily involved in discussions around income inequality. The organization has championed the Living Wage calculation — currently set at $17.55 an hour — reported on the struggles of local people trying to get by on less, made recommendations around creation of a Regional Poverty Reduction Strategy and adapted an existing committee to look at the broader issue of income security in Perth and Huron.

For the people in communities struggling to afford even basic needs, their suffering is often voiceless. Because of overwhelming shame, many hide the extent of their struggles. Trapped in a cycle of poverty and social stigma, vulnerable people are forced even further to the margins of their communities.

“An open, honest discussion about Basic Income is an important step at this moment in history,” added United Way Perth-Huron (UWPH) Executive Director Ryan Erb. “We need to dispel the myths about Basic Income and show its importance to individuals and the community. Vulnerable people, including some who may have never faced income insecurity before because of the pandemic, aren’t looking to take advantage of the system. They want to work. They want to feel valued as neighbours and community members. A Basic Income can help achieve that and right now, the world is finally ready to hear it.”

“Those who think a Basic Income would make people lazy and unmotivated are underestimating the power of the human spirit to survive, to fight against all odds and build a good life,” said a local resident who lives on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). “I have so many dreams of what I want to do with my life, dreams that have kept my hope alive since I was a very young child. If I just had half a chance, I would conquer every obstacle to get there.”

Basic Income Booklet Summary(PDF)

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