The story in the May 31st online issue of Northumberland Today seemed minor enough as it announced that the County of Northumberland has now decided not to mail out June cheques to people on welfare. Scared of a mail strike that might, or might not happen after June 3rd, they've decided to require folks to travel to points in Brighton, Cobourg and Campbellford instead to pick up their cheques in person on June 1st only. Hey, not a big deal at all. Unless you're one of the unlucky people on welfare, and if you are, this arrangement may cause huge problems.
Late cheques mean late rent, and that could lead to eviction procedures beng started, not to mention the onerous NSF cheque charges imposed by the banks when a cheque isn't deposited in time to honour pre-authorized payments. The factor here that was overlooked by the bureaucrats, just like always, is that people on welfare don't necessarily have vehicles they can jump into to get to town, and even if they do, those vehicles just might be out of gas at this end of the month. We don't know when this County decision was made, or how, or even if, clients were notified in time to make necessary arrangements to get to the distribution centre for their area. It's quite possible some people may not know about the change at all, and won't until they frantically call their worker to find out why they didn't get their cheque.
For those who might mistakenly think this move is intended to help clients, let's look a little more closely. First, the threat of a strike by Canada Post has been ongoing for a few weeks now. Welfare cheques are routinely produced a week or so before the end of the month, so could have been mailed out early like they do annually at Christmas time. That would have been a much simpler solution, absolutely fair to everyone, and without the fuss and kerfuffle that setting up distribution centres at three locations in the County will entail. Hope everyone remembers to bring their I.D. with them too, they will all have to take their turn standing in line waiting while each person produces proof of their identity. So much for privacy.
From the County's perspective, this type of upheaval serves two purposes. First, it will help convince reluctant recipients to agree to direct deposit of their cheques, a move encouraged all around Ontario. Secondly, it's another tool to potentially expose possibly ineligible recipients, who might not want to show up in person. Of course, quite a few people on welfare work too, quite legitimately and on the record, and they may simply be unable to collect their cheques in person for that reason. Suspicion will follow, whatever the reason for failing to turn up, and a minor delay can quickly evolve into a lengthy investigation during which time no cheque will be released at all. Cue the Landlord Tenant Tribunal and bank NSF charges on that one too.
Few of us can afford to do without a paycheque, and people on welfare have absolutely no wiggle room at all. No savings to fall back on since that would disqualify a person from getting welfare in the first place. Nowhere to go, nobody to help except possibly the parasitical money lending places, and once a person falls into their clutches, it's a huge hole to dig out of again.
So on this item, the BR can only issue a pox on the County for throwing its vulnerable, destitute client population to the wolves with its shortsighted "helpful" initiative. Northumberland is not alone in this decision either, several other, mostly rurally based municipalities have done the same. A pox on them all.