Although inflation appears to be cooling, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) Social Assistance Department has announced it will continue to provide an inflation benefit to social assistance clients until the end of the fiscal year in March 2024.
The consumer price index (CPI) reported by Statistics Canada for September, the most recent data available, is 3.8 percent compared to a year earlier, a marginal improvement from August’s numbers. However, many are still feeling the pressures of inflation with key purchases costing a lot more than they used to.
“I think it’s incredibly important for people to be able to not have so much economic stress on them as they’re buying groceries, as they’re providing for their family,” said Alexis Shackleton, director of MCK’s Client-Based Services. “I think that it’s very important that this support is there for them.”
Even though the inflation rate of foods purchased at grocery stores is reported to be slowing down, the hike in price tags over the past couple years is hard to overlook.
“We have to shop for deals nowadays. We can’t just spend our money like it’s water, and we have to find where the cheapest prices are now and then try to get the most for our money,” said community member Jeremiah Johnson, who had to go on social assistance due to a disability caused by a work injury right before COVID-19.
“The cost of everything is skyrocketing,” he said, adding he splits his grocery trips between local stores and ones outside the community, depending on where he’ll find the best prices.
The inflation benefit is funded by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), with $200 allocated per adult in a file and an additional $100 per dependent.
On top of that, the Social Assistance Department will be delivering winter clothing and a heating supplement for four months to all their active members and their dependents.
This comes at the time where the impact of inflation is felt when purchasing everyday essentials, namely food – one of the eight components factoring into the CPI.
Despite that, the social assistance program currently has around 360 active files, the lowest it’s been for quite some time, according to Shackleton.
“It’s really a great thing to have such a low number of active clients,” said Shackleton, noting that a file can account for more than one person.
Currently, the majority of the clients are individuals who have a long-term disability or the inability to work for the long[term, said Shackleton. This can include those who have kids under the age of five, or those with a long-term illness, for instance.
Since his injury, Johnson has dedicated himself to his new startup, Mohawk Mushrooms, and says the financial nudge from social assistance has been significant in helping him get back up on his feet. And he believes the additional benefits will go a long way for many.
“Without the additional assistance, there’s a lot of families, I’m sure, who wouldn’t be able to put food on the table quite the same as they were,” he said.
It is yet unclear whether or not the funding will be extended into the following fiscal year. “I’m concerned if people were to become dependent on the additional amount, because we don’t know if it’s going to continue,” said Shackleton.