WINNIPEG -- Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) is calling on the province to provide financial help to those on Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition wants the Manitoba government to increase the EIA budget by $300 per person while the pandemic is taking place.

“This is a public health and harm reduction issue - you can’t call Healthlinks without a phone,” said Desiree McIvor, steering committee member for MPHM, in a news release.

“COVID-19 has made life more challenging for everyone, especially vulnerable Manitobans.”

The coalition noted that due to the pandemic, community resource centres that provide access to free phones, computers, and meals have shut down, and school meal programs are no longer operating.

MPHM said community organizations are “scrambling” to meet the higher demand, and shopping options are limited for those who stretch their EIA budget.

“Employment options have dried up, and looking for work is impossible given the public health order to stay home,” it said.

MPHM cited the Department of Families annual report, which says there are 73,000 Manitobans on EIA.

“We need to get money into the hands of people who need it most - the province of Manitoba has a responsibility to help those who rely on provincial social assistance to get through this crisis,” said Michael Barkman, chair of MPHM.