Additional funding has been announced for a P.E.I. secure income pilot after Green MLA Hannah Bell pressed Social Development Minister Ernie Hudson on the issue last week.
Hudson spoke about the pilot during two question periods while replying to Bell.
Prior to announcing an additional $900,000 to extend the pilot next year, Hudson disputed a suggestion from Bell that the average $187 individuals will receive from the program would be taken away after the initial three months.
“I would say that the honourable member is possibly jumping to conclusions here,” said Hudson, who later announced the additional funding. “Nobody has talked anything about taking money away from people.”
The $225,000 secure income pilot originally announced in the budget would provide 400 people with additional funds over a three-month period from January to March 2020.
Bell said while she was encouraged by the additional funding, it would not help maintain the program much longer.
“That will take us forward for probably another six to seven months. So, it’s still a pilot.”
The exchange first began with Bell asking how the 400 people would be selected for the pilot, stating there were another 5,300 Islanders on social assistance and at least 15,000 who are working poor.
Hudson said his department was already working on the program’s parameters and had previously asked Opposition MLAs for any suggestions.
“I think I would start with suggesting poverty is not a lottery,” said Bell, who later relayed a constituent’s description of the selection process as a “Hunger Games” style system.
Hudson said he agreed “100 per cent” the selection would not be a lottery.
He also described the pilot as an opportunity for government to identify shortfalls and opportunities, and that the province would be reviewing it.
“We want to make it as positive as possible that we go get it right, but at the end of the day, too, once that pilot is being rolled out…. Will there be other changes that we will see? Criteria that should be added to it? There very well may be.”