Saturday, April 21, 2012

Provincial Budget, Municipalities and Social Assistance

As we wait to see how provincial budget negotiations between the McGuinty Liberals and the NDP s go over the weekend I’m a little surprised that little very little has been said about the impacts that the budget will have on Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens and our municipalities for that matter.

While the NDP appears to be working to establish a pathetic 1% increase for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients your blogger’s easily boggled mind is sidetracked by the fact that Horwath and Company have apparently shown no interest in an increase for Ontario Works (OW) recipients.

A long term solution would be to establish evidence based social assistance rates.  Having rates attached to the real cost of living just makes sense.

I’ve written about this before and Craig Foye, a staff lawyer at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, has done considerable work to make this idea a reality (see Fact Sheet #1 at

In the meantime we should worry about other matters in the budget that will impact our most vulnerable citizens and our municipalities.

A case in point is the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).

CSUMB is a mandatory benefit provided to eligible recipients up to a maximum in a 24 month period. The CSUMB assists in establishing a new principal residence, to prevent eviction or to prevent the discontinuance of utilities or heating in an existing residence.  CSUMB may also be issued where there is a threat to the health or welfare of a recipient or a member of the benefit unit in a non-start up situation.  There is currently no cap on funding for this crucial benefit.

Right now the amount of the CSUMB payable is up to a maximum of $1,500 for recipients with one or more dependent children in a 24-month period; or up to a maximum of $799 where there are no dependent children in a 24-month period. 

But the budget brought forward on March 27th calls for the transfer of the CSUMB to the Consolidated Housing and Homelessness Program.  That program is run by municipal government.  Locally that government is the Region of Halton.

This has been called a transfer.  It is not.  The provincial government would only be sending along 50% of its share of the CSUMB funding.   No one knows what the program will look like. 

What is known from the budget document is there will be a limited and lesser amount of funding spread over a greater number of applicants.  

How will that work for municipalities?  Will they step to the plate with more dollars for their vulnerable citizens?  Don’t count on it?

The consequences for individuals and families in receipt of provincial social assistance will be serious.  The proposed changes should be stopped.