Today [January 3], after spending two days homeless waiting for the welfare office to open, Jagrup Brar ‘applied for welfare’ so he can get a place to live and start looking for work. Brar, the MLA from Surrey Fleetwood, is taking part in a month long MLA Welfare Challenge issued by Raise the Rates, to bring awareness about poverty and low welfare rates in BC.
“I spent the morning standing in line at the welfare office, doing a 68 page on-line welfare application, and getting interviewed by a welfare worker,” Brar said at a news conference at the Surrey Urban Mission today. “I learned that, unless you are homeless and in an immediate need for shelter, food or medical attention, in most cases it takes three weeks to get welfare. You also have to look for work and ask friends and relatives for money in those three weeks.”
“This is how some people become homeless,” said Bill Hopwood of Raise the Rates. “The welfare office can tell them they have to look for work for three weeks before they can get a cheque, so without money you have nowhere to live.”
“Getting welfare is not easy,” added Brar. “You need to have good ID, a resume, proof of a job search, records of employment, pay stubs, EI stubs, ICBC stubs, WCB stubs, income tax documents, bank statements, all financial records, information on RESPs, RRSPs, vehicle registrations and sometimes more.”
“You also have to fill out a two page work search activities record that is a legal document,” explained Hopwood.
Hopwood then presented Brar with his ‘welfare cheque’ of $610, the amount a single person who is expected to work gets for one month. However there are many deductions.
The government allocates $375 of this amount for shelter but most housing costs more than that, and people have to take the extra amount out of their support payment of $235. After accounting for the extra cost of housing, damage deposit, a prorated amount for the supports portion of the cheque and bus tickets and a cell phone to look for work, Brar expects to have $108 left for food and other necessities.
Hopwood noted that the Dietitians of Canada say that a man of Brar’s age needs to spend $234 a month on food to have a nutritious diet.
“Instead of helping people get back on their feet, low welfare rates make it very difficult to survive, let along look for work,” said Hopwood.