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Working to live: economic security through policy innovation in vancouver's downtown eastside

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Economic insecurity has been a persistent policy problem in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Expert interviews with 33 high-level representatives from non-profit organizations and social enterprises in the DTES and a literature review were used to understand the context and factors contributing to economic insecurity. Key identified barriers include: earning limits and high income taxes; a lack of access to supportive, low-threshold employment; and insufficient supports. These findings informed the development of five policy options that were assessed with respect to effectiveness, budgetary cost to government, stakeholder acceptability, and implementation complexity. Based on this analysis, promising approaches to improve economic security in the DTES of Vancouver include introducing a 30% income tax on earnings above social assistance exemption limits; facilitating investment in enterprises that provide low-threshold opportunities; and, providing low-barrier employment supports including skills and work readiness training, on- and off-job supports, and other community-centred supportive employment services.
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