Coronavirus: Saskatchewan social services ministry encourages low-contact ways of paying rent

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services is encouraging landlords to work with tenants to determine low-contact ways of meeting their rental obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two organizations called on the ministry to change its policy and begin direct payment of rent and utilities to landlords and utility companies on behalf of its income assistance clients as a means of reducing transmission.

Quint Development Corporation and the Saskatoon Landlord Association said recipients of social assistance rely on buses or taxis to get to these various locations, further increasing the risk of transmission.

“If we assume rent and utility payments result in four potential interactions (bank, landlord, utility and bus) then this would result in a minimum 13,200 transmission points that could be prevented each month. This number is likely much larger.”

Doris Morrow, executive director of income assistance program service and design with the ministry, responded to the call on April 8.

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She said they believe that anyone who receives income assistance benefits should be treated no differently by their landlords than any other Saskatchewan citizen who enters into a tenancy agreement.

“We have not changed our view that clients can and should have a greater amount of choice and responsibility as they work to become more independent by paying for their rent, damage deposits and utilities,” read a statement from Morrow.

“We would encourage private and not-for-profit landlords to work with all of their tenants — and not just those who may be in receipt of income assistance — to determine low-contact ways of meeting their rental obligations at this time.”

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