The ministry of Social Services has announced its comprehensive pandemic response at a news conference Tuesday.
The response is aimed at supporting “vulnerable Saskatchewan citizens and the organizations that serve them by leveraging existing resources within the system, adapting policies and allocating new resources,” said social services minister Paul Merriman.
The response includes additional funding to emergency shelters, some modified service delivery to accommodate capacity pressures, and measures to ease the burden on existing clients.
“This is an unprecedented time for the social services sector in our province due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Merriman. He said they have been in contact with the Ministry of Health and with other provinces on what they are doing.
Highlights include the following:
The province is committing one-time additional funding of $171,000 to emergency shelters throughout the province, bringing total funding to emergency shelters to $3.93 million. This is aimed at addressing the extra costs those shelters are experiencing at this time.
The Lighthouse North Battleford is one of ten organizations receiving the funding increase; others include Lloydminster Men’s Shelter; YWCA Regina - My Aunt’s Place; YWCA Prince Albert; YWCA Saskatoon; Lighthouse Saskatoon; Salvation Army Saskatoon; Salvation Army Regina; Soul’s Harbour Regina and Soul’s Harbour Moose Jaw.
The Emergency Shelter Response also includes a modified delivery model similar to the "Cold Weather Strategy" used in winter.
“When emergency shelters are unable to meet the needs of individuals or families because of capacity pressures, Social Services will support those in need with funds for emergency hotel stays and will work to transition clients to permanent housing,” Merriman said.
Those who need immediate emergency help, such as food or shelter, can contact the local service centre, or their worker.
For new initiatives, Social Services will be providing full time child care subsidy benefits retroactive to March 1 2020, to help those who were receiving part-time benefits because their children were attending school will receive full-time benefits, retroactive to March 1, 2020.
The Saskatchewan Housing Benefit will begin accepting applications April 1, 2020. This is a monthly benefit available to eligible households, including seniors, families, couples and singles.
Social Services offices remain open with the first hour of the day dedicated to ore vulnerable individuals, including those with disabilities or health problem such as a compromised immune system.
Merriman said they have also loosened reporting requirements for income assistance, those seeking social housing and community organizations. Outreach crisis workers continue to be available for those with intellectual disabilities.