Working to Make Life Better: Budget 2017

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Brace yourself, we’re about to talk budgets.

In case you had accidentally stuck your head in the sand to avoid hearing about the ‘out of control spending’ or the ‘soaring debt’ some media outlets reported, Budget 2017 dropped yesterday. Most criticism coming from individuals, think-tanks and other interested parties in Alberta tends to focus on balanced budgets, the bottom line and short term thinking instead of long term success and support of those who need it most.

“Working to Make Life Better” is being positioned as a shock absorber budget: focused on maintaining public services and investing in infrastructure. Budget 2017 arrives as Alberta enters Year 3 of this economic downtown which has greatly impacted individuals, families, government and nonprofits, including YW Calgary.

A “no surprises” document, Budget 2017 maintained funding support for social services which aid some of Alberta’s most vulnerable. Women fleeing abuse and homelessness rely on shelters, counselling programs and parenting supports offered by the YW and our partners to start moving forward in their lives.

We are relieved government has upheld its commitment to supporting Albertan’s access to these vital social and living supports.

And while “holding the line” is critical (and praiseworthy) we’ll continue to advocate with our funders and donors for the resources necessary to support women in need more intensively, with the right help at the right time. The needs of vulnerable people are great. We’ll also continue to remind our Government partners where their funding commitments fall short of the true cost of providing such help.

The rightly celebrated Alberta Child Benefit also stuck in this budget and is of direct benefit to many mothers and families we work with providing up to $2,785 annually per household and support nearly 200,000 children.

But children aren’t poor alone so we’ll keep up our lobbying for increases to government benefits such as Income Support. Budget 2017 marks five straight years where the monthly benefit available to individuals who are temporarily not working or unable to work has been stuck at $627. Think of the costs for basic needs which have changed since 2012 and how far $600 bucks could go. It’s woefully inadequate and results in people – more than 50,000 in January – being trapped in indignity.

Nothing has changed, the day after the budget, for women and families who need temporary support from their neighbours (that’s us, fellow Albertans) and our leaders. People who are poor matter and this budget could not (and did not) turn its back on their needs.