Friday, June 20, 2014

Focus is on Income assistance Participants finding good jobs

June 19, 2014


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Manitoba Works! and Rent Assist Programs Will Help Meet Growing Demand for Skilled Workers, Reduce Poverty: Minister Oswald

The Manitoba government is introducing two new programs that will help employment and income assistance participants find good jobs while continuing to grow the province’s skilled workforce, Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.

“Employers have told us that more skilled workers are necessary so they can expand and grow, while community advocates have told us that greater supports are necessary to help those in need,” said Minister Oswald.  “Manitoba Works! and Rent Assist will help low-income Manitobans succeed at work and increase their income, while also helping Manitoba’s economy meet the growing demand for skilled workers.”

Through the Manitoba Works! Co-operative Work Experience Program, community-based organizations will help more than 250 employment and income assistance (EIA) participants to overcome barriers to employment and the challenges in finding and keeping good jobs, the minister said.  The program is currently being piloted at four sites in the province including Opportunities for Employment, the Momentum Centre and Reaching E-Quality Employment Services in Winnipeg, and FireSpirit in northern Manitoba.

“The Manitoba Works! program gave me an opportunity to develop new skills and get a good job,” said Karl Anderson, employee, Shoppers Drug Mart.  “At the same time, it’s helped me develop confidence and understand what I have to offer an employer.  I’m really excited about my future, thanks to Manitoba Works!”

A defining feature of Manitoba Works! is the co-operative work experience that links individuals with employers who need skilled workers, Minister Oswald said.  Community service providers, after providing training and job placement services, will continue with comprehensive supports for both the worker and the employer, to ensure that once a link to employment is made, individuals will have every opportunity to continue to realize their workforce potential, she added.

“We commend government for taking this innovative approach to helping employers, particularly when hiring individuals who face challenging barriers to employment,” said Amir Baksh, owner, Winnipeg Shoppers Drug Mart.  “Manitoba Works! is a win-win endeavour that will address skill shortages and help individuals who are having difficulty finding a job to realize their full potential.  We are thrilled to be a part of it.”

Manitoba Works! is part of the provincial skills strategy, building towards the government’s goal of increasing Manitoba’s labour force by 75,000 workers by 2020.

Minister Oswald also announced details on Manitoba’s Rent Assist program, a new financial benefit available to both social assistance recipients and other low-income Manitobans.  Rent Assist will replace the current EIA shelter allowance and RentAid programs.

“We know that just raising welfare rates can create poverty traps, where those trying to make the transition from welfare to work may be worse off working than on welfare,” said Minister Oswald.  “That is why the Rent Assist program increases benefits for both social assistance recipients and low-income workers.  It is portable and will follow people into jobs, promoting transitions to employment, and goes hand-in-hand with Manitoba Works! and the enhanced efforts to connect individuals to good jobs and financial independence.”

Individuals on EIA living in private rental accommodations will receive increases of between $50 and $70 per month for shelter costs.  Single individuals, for example, will now receive $435 dollars per month, compared to the previous $365 per month.

Minister Oswald also reiterated the government’s commitment that rates will increase over a four-year period to 75 per cent of Median Market Rent (MMR) for EIA participants.

Individuals outside of EIA will receive a maximum of $270 per month with benefits gradually declining as recipients increase their earnings.  A new Rent Assist calculator will be available online in July to help Manitobans determine if they are eligible for Rent Assist and their estimated benefit amount, the minister said.

“Community stakeholders asked for an increase in shelter benefits for those on social assistance, and we are very pleased the government has responded with a benefit that will help not only those on social assistance, but low-income Manitobans more broadly,” said Kirsten Bernas, research and policy manager, the Canadian Community Economic Development Network.  “For those who are able to work, a good job with the right supports provides a path out of poverty and promotes social inclusion.  Rent Assist will make this path an easier one for people to take, while providing more low-income Manitobans with greater access to affordable housing.”

Manitoba Works! and Rent Assist are part of Manitoba’s Strategy for Sustainable Employment and a Stronger Labour Market.  For more information, visit:

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