By Steve Lambert and Kelly Malone, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government promised Wednesday to send cheques to some families and seniors to help them battle inflation.
The Progressive Conservative government is also raising benefits for certain people on social assistance, and offering a temporary boost in funding to food banks.
“It is beyond clear that many Manitobans are hurting and having a hard time making ends meet,” Premier Heather Stefanson said.
“This economic rough patch has created the perfect storm with unprecedented cost increases hitting us everywhere we turn.”
Families with children under 18 and a household income of less than $175,000 are to receive one-time cheques of $250 for the first child and $200 for each additional child. The province estimates that 145,000 families are to receive the cheques.
A $300 cheque is to be sent to any senior with less than $40,000 in family income. About 52,500 households are expected to receive that money.
Childless people on employment and income assistance will see their basic monthly payment rise by $50 per month. Anyone on disability benefits in the program will receive an extra $25 monthly.
There is also $1.7 million in a new temporary fund for food banks. They can apply for the money starting Sept. 7 and applications are to close two weeks later.
The announcement is more targeted than relief recently promised by the Saskatchewan government, which is sending $500 cheques to every adult in the province. While Saskatchewan is projecting a budget surplus this year due to high energy prices, Manitoba is forecasting a deficit. It will face a $87-million price tag for its aid package.
When asked why the province is choosing to help families earning as much as $175,000 annually, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said people at that income level are also feeling the effects of inflation.
“We know that these pressures are being felt in many, many Manitoba households,” Friesen said. “You cannot tell me today that a teacher married to a police officer, that a household of a social worker with an entrepreneur, are not feeling the pinch.”
The Opposition New Democrats said the government was trying to buy voter support while not properly funding health care.
“Stefanson is trying to buy your support — with your own money,” Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew posted on social media.
“Meanwhile, you can’t get the surgery you need and you wait longer than ever at our (emergency rooms).”