Food bank preparing for potential rise in demand as tax season begins

·2 min read

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank is preparing for an influx in clients when people who were on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) are asked to repay some of that money back in taxes.

Dan Edwards, executive director of the food bank, said he does not know how hard taxes on CERB will impact people in the community, but expects demand to rise this spring.

“CERB was a great payment to help people that didn’t have income coming in," he said. "However, it wasn’t taxed on the front end so at some point that’s going to be taxed.”

Edwards is hoping for some forgiveness or extensions with CERB repayments. But the looming debt can still hurt someone’s mental health, especially during an uncertain economy. He hopes struggling residents will reach out to the food bank, even if residents think they may not qualify.

“Everyone has a level of pride and they don’t want to be seen asking for help,” said Edwards. “Whatever the outcome of the tax season, don’t be afraid to reach out if you need some help because that is what we’re here for.”

March is usually a slower month for the food bank, but Edwards said demand has not stopped growing since the COVID-19 pandemic and last year's plunge in oil prices.

Staff are currently juggling this demand with construction at the food bank's new location downtown. Since last April's flooding, the food bank has been operating out of an office in Gregoire and a warehouse location downtown.

“We’re looking forward to having the new building be open and getting everything back under one roof,” said Edwards. “It puts us back in the downtown core which is the most easily accessible to for our clients.”

Edwards said construction at the new site is on schedule and the building is well on its way to being finished by spring of this year.

“It’s all starting to take shape and we’re really excited about it,” he said.

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today