Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP were joined by several anti-poverty groups at the legislative building on Monday to voice their concerns over the funding of the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID) program.

SAID is an income support program for people with significant and enduring disabilities that may have difficulties working.

Joining Critic for Housing and Social Services Meara Conway were representatives from the Moose Jaw Food Bank, the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry.

Although no one from the food bank spoke during the press conference, Conway said the Moose Jaw Food Bank is seeing the effects of people with disabilities having difficulties making ends meet.

“Nearly 30 per cent of users of the Moose Jaw Food Bank received SAID and they have seen an exponential increase in reliance on their services over the past year,” she said.

David Nelson, senior consultant for the Canadian Mental Health Association Saskatchewan, said they are also seeing people with disabilities that are finding it hard to pay for groceries.

“At the Canadian Mental Health Association, we get calls regularly for people saying ‘I can't get the amount of food I need,’ and you know it's getting worse and worse now that inflation is rising,” he said.

Conway said the issue is that the government is telling those on SAID to apply early for the Canadian Pension Plan before they are 65.

She said doing that would leave those with disabilities with less money later in life and the amount paid out by CPP is then clawed back from their SAID rates. Conway called the practice “discriminatory.”

“This practice forces them to give up a significant portion of what little financial security they might have in the future. This is a practice made ever more damaging when those amounts are then clawed back from their SAID amounts,” Conway said.

According to the Government of Saskatchewan’s website, SAID has three main components: a living income, a disability income and exceptional need income. As of July 1, 2019, the annual earned income exemptions for SAID are $6,000 for single beneficiaries, $7,200 for couples and $8,500 for families.