Moe open to conversations on how to improve SIS program

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post A multi exposure image of the SIS logo located on Broad street superimposed over the SUMA office on Parliament avenue on Tuesday, June 20, 2023 in Regina.

By Alec Salloum

Regina Leader-Post

Speaking at Canada’s Farm Show in Regina on Tuesday morning Premier Scott Moe spoke to the gathered crowd about advances in agriculture.

About how, thanks to those steps forward, the diet of a monarch is less impressive than the daily offerings at any given Co-op Grocery Store or Costco.

“We’re very fortunate in most nations around the world simply because we have enough to eat,” said Moe.

Using King Louis XIV as an example, Moe said “he lacked many things we take for granted that we’re accustomed to.”

Moe said the French Monarch would be “quite shocked” at the abundance.

After his speech Moe spoke about people who are not seeing the same prosperous reality touted during his speech as organizations like the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) sound the alarm over income assistance programs contributing to poverty and homelessness in Saskatchewan.

SUMA has called on the province to address issues made worse, in their view, by the current provincially offered social assistance program.

“Always room for improvement,” said Moe on the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program.

Gerald Aalbers, SUMA’s vice-president, had slightly stronger words in a June 14 letter.

“(SIS) continues to worsen our homelessness problem,” he said. “The barriers put in place for accessing services, the rates that remain far below the cost of living, and the evictions that occur because the province no longer pays landlords directly, are responsible for ever-increasing numbers of people on our streets.”

Moe said SIS is designed in part to encourage people to find work while on the program, and to teach people how to budget. But SUMA specifically mentioned a lack of accessibility of the programs and the lack of direct payments for rent and utilities as issues.

“Those are things we can talk about if there are some areas where the program can be strengthened,” said Moe.

Moe said the SIS program came to be, and the previous Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) was scrapped, due to conversations and consultation within the province.

“It didn’t encourage people to, to even go out and start to look for some transitionary employment,” said Moe, saying the SAP program “clawed back” money earned from work. He said the SIS program does not do that, and while he acknowledged issues exist, Moe said the direct payment of rent and utilities is still possible with the SIS.

“All of that can happen, it just needs to be requested,” said Moe.

But not everyone can access rent and utility payments directly on SIS. Only clients rated at a Service Level 4, which accounts for clients with the highest needs, are eligible for direct payment as an option.

In response Moe said under the SAP “over 70 per cent of the folks didn’t request that service either.”

Another point of recent contention in Saskatchewan is funding for school divisions that have taken to the very steps of the Legislature to demand adequate funding for the upcoming school year.

Some school divisions have said the top-up funding announced recently is too late as budgets have already been developed and completed.

“Well, they’re going to have to change their budget,” said Moe. “The dollars are there, they’re available this year.”