A Lindsay woman who has been receiving a basic income for the past three months says her life has taken a turn for the better – including her mental health.
Barb Munro was on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for depression and mental illness, before deciding to apply for basic income a few months ago under the new pilot set up by the Province.
Since her acceptance into the program, it has doubled her income to just over $1,800 a month.
“Even mentally I feel better,” says Munro, “because I know I still have some money in my bank account” later in the month.
“Before it was a constant battle of what do I pay first and what do I let go. Sometimes I didn’t have enough food, so I’ve had to use the food bank quite often,” she says.
Munro, who has lived in Lindsay for 26 years, says basic income has had a “tremendous impact” on her life.
“I’m now able to pay my rent and bills in full, and on time.”
Her daughter, one of four grown children of Munro’s, was also able to receive basic income and now gets an extra $700 a month to help her meet her needs.
Munro says it used to be “so hard” to take care of all the bills, from hydro to heat. She would have to make arrangements to pay small amounts and then it was difficult to catch up.
This was also the first year she was able to buy Christmas gifts for her children and grandchildren in recent memory.
“And when I shop for groceries, now I can buy fresh produce for the first time. I’m still cheap when I shop, but it’s nice to have a few more options,” she says.
“I’m very careful with the money now,” she adds, and puts any additional funds in the bank.
The whole idea of having enough money to meet her needs is still “really new” to her right now.
For instance, she hadn’t bought any clothes in many years, and rarely could afford something extra like a haircut.
Just recently she decided to get curtains for her windows – just two $10 panels, but that was an extra luxury she wouldn’t dare have chosen before getting basic income.
“It might sound silly, but I couldn’t do it before.”
Munro isn’t content to sit at home and do nothing. She works part-time at a local grocery store about 15 hours a week. She did that while she was on ODSP, too.
“I prefer to work. For one thing, I work to get me out of the house, and it’s a little bit of extra income during the week,” she says, since they pay weekly.
“Then I’ve got some each week to live off of. Plus, I don’t believe in taking anything for free. I feel better for working because I contribute to myself and it helps with my depression to get out.”
On ODSP, Munro was able to make $200 a month before they took half.
With basic income, nothing is taken out of her monthly cheques. Once next year’s tax time rolls around, anything earned beyond the basic income is decreased by 50 cents for every dollar an individual earns through work.
People are eligible for basic income if they are living on a low income, which is under $34,000 per year for singles or under $48,000 per year for a couple.
Munro also volunteers for the local humane society on Saturday mornings, sometimes going to Pet Smart to try and get some of the animals adopted.
She thought about retraining for school now that she’s feeling more secure, but she’s just not sure what she would want to do.
“I can now do pretty much anything I need to do. That’s a very different way to live for me, and it feels really good.”
The government pilot wants to test how a basic income might help people living on low incomes better meet their basic needs, while hoping to see improvements in:
- food security
- stress and anxiety
- mental health
- health and healthcare usage
- housing stability
- education and training
- employment and labour market participation
There’s still time to sign up for basic income. Just visit the Ontario Basic Income Pilot website and register for an in-person session.