Police say Victoria’s emergency services are inundated in and around “Welfare Wednesday.” (Black Press Media files)

Should B.C. nix ‘Welfare Wednesday’ and stagger income assistance cheques?

Liberal MLA calls for cheques to be staggered through the month instead of the same week

With illicit drug overdoses killing an average of four people per day in B.C., one Liberal MLA hopes a change to how welfare cheques are distributed may help bring some reprieve.

Social assistance cheques are issued every third or fourth Wednesday of the month, garnering the name “Welfare Wednesday.” In the days that follow, first responders and frontline workers say they see a significant increase in overdose calls and deaths.

A study by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use found that, since 2009, 40 per cent more people have died during that week than any other time during the month.

Jane Thornthwaite, who represents North Vancouver-Seymour and is the Liberals’ mental health and addictions critic, put forward a private member’s bill this week, calling for the distribution of the cheques to be staggered through the month.

READ MORE: Study looks to effects of changing universal income assistance cheques

READ MORE: Most of B.C.’s overdose victims face financial hardship before death

She said she’s been lobbied by some first responders who are overwhelmed during income assistance week.

Researchers at the centre on substance use have been studying what would happen if the province were to split the one income assistant cheque into two every month, or not make the payments on one universal day province-wide.

That report is set to be released in coming months.


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