Province says staggering welfare cheques has “some merit,” but awaits study before making a decision

published on March 2, 2018 by Justin McElroy in CBC News

Paramedics and police chiefs support the concept, but there’s no evidence it would reduce total overdoses

The minister in charge of poverty reduction in B.C. says not having a single day when social assistance cheques are distributed is intriguing, but the government won’t make a decision this year.

“It’s an idea that I think has some merit,” said Shane Simpson, adding the payday effect is well known.

“You’re giving a significant number of people in that community some money, and they’ve probably been struggling the week before. There is a peak in activity, clearly, around that day and we have to determine whether it’s significantly beneficial to make a change.”

Victoria Police Department Chief Del Manak wrote a letter to the province last month asking them to consider a pilot project on staggering the days cheques are issued to help ease the pressure on emergency responders who face a spike in drug overdoses on cheque days.

“Our response rates and … times for the other calls now takes a backseat and it’s not allowing us to deliver efficient service in and around when these cheques are issued,” he said.

His proposal was endorsed by the Vancouver Police Department. Cameron Eby, provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C., has also said it would “probably be a better thing for paramedics.”

But Simpson cautioned that there were potential negative side-effects that need to be considered.

“There’s issues around rent paid, there would be potential human rights issues about imposing that on people, it would be identifying people who face substance issues,” he said.

“[And] there wouldn’t be a reduction necessarily in overdose, they would spread out differently over the month.”

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