Changes needed to income support programs

Nest wants the Saskatchewan government to change its low-income support programs so all refugees are treated equally. Saskatchewan’s current policy discriminates against refugee families who are privately sponsored. Here is how.

Canadian-government sponsored refugee families in the province are eligible to access the employment supplement and/ or rental supplement once they have a permanent address. They also are allowed to apply for low-income housing once they receive their health card, which takes less than a month.

But privately sponsored refugee families are not allowed to apply for either the rental supplement or employment supplement until they have lived in the province for one year. Ditto for low-income housing.

As a volunteer group that raises all of its sponsorship money through donations, Nest wonders why our refugee families are not eligible for the same benefits and income support as government sponsored families? What makes them less deserving?

The glaring double standard was most apparent when Nest co-sponsored a single parent refugee family with the Canadian government. Under this cost-shared program, known as the Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR), the Canadian government and community sponsor each pay for six months of income support for the refugee family.

During the months our single parent family was government sponsored, she received the rental supplement. But when she switched to our Nest sponsorship, she was denied the benefit. The reason?  She was privately sponsored. There is no justification for this discriminatory policy.

We understand other provinces treat community and government sponsored refugees equally.  The Saskatchewan government needs to do the same.

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