Date Added: November 17, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, News, Research — Tags: A roadmap for change, Daily Bread, Daily Bread Food Bank, government, income, income security, ontario, provincial, provincial government, roadmap, security, system — Adam Paralovos @ 8:08 am
A new report called “Income Security: A Roadmap for Change” has just been released by the provincial government.
The Roadmap was written by three groups that were appointed by the Minister of Community and Social Services (MCSS) in 2016 to give advice to the government on how to reform Ontario’s income security system.
Former Daily Bread board member John Stapleton was a member of the Income Security Reform Working Group, one of the three groups that contributed to the report.
We urge everyone to read the Roadmap, engage with its recommendations, and participate in the public consultation process. Public consultation will take place between now and January 2, 2018.
The Roadmap is available here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/income-security-reform
The government’s press release is here: https://news.ontario.ca/mcss/en/2017/11/working-groups-deliver-roadmap-for-income-security-reform.html
The government is asking people to provide feedback in writing. Information about the feedback process is here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/income-security-reform#section-5
The Roadmap makes some important recommendations, including large increases to social assistance rates, making the system less punitive, and the implementation of an Ontario Housing Benefit.
This is an important opportunity to push government to action, and make real change that can have an impact on people struggling with hunger in Toronto.
Date Added: September 12, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Information, News, Research — Tags: bank, benefit, bread, daily, Daily Bread, Daily Bread Food Bank, federal housing benefit, food, housing, housing benefit, national, national portable housing benefit, portable, proposal — Adam Paralovos @ 3:40 pm
Daily Bread joins the call for a National Portable Housing Benefit program in the National Housing Strategy
Daily Bread has joined the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), United Way Centraide Canada, Raising the Roof , Campaign 2000 and other leading Canadian anti-poverty organizations to call on the federal government to include a National Portable Housing Benefit in the upcoming National Housing Strategy.
In a letter sent to the Hon. Jean Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the group called on the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to launch a national portable housing benefit that starts by assisting those with greatest need, particularly households currently spending more than 50% of on housing and Canadians experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Rent is the single biggest expense for those accessing food banks in Toronto: food bank clients spend, on average, 71% of their income on rent. Direct assistance for renters would help households most in need, complement social housing, and provide a flexible benefit that renters can use regardless of where they live — all without adding pressure to the already-heated rental market that exists in cities like Toronto. Rental assistance is also an essential element to any effort to prevent and end homelessness.
Read the full text of the letter to Minister Duclos.
What could a National Portable Housing Benefit look like?
Daily Bread has been working closely with a number of national partner organizations in the National Housing Collaborative on a proposal to the federal government of what a National Portable Housing Benefit could encompass. In a detailed proposal recently submitted to the federal government, the NHC proposed a single, harmonized and co-funded federal-provincial-territorial program that provides rent assistance directly to tenants in need.
It’s important to note that our housing benefit proposal is designed to be complementary to, not a replacement for, affordable and social housing investment. Canada has a severe affordable housing crisis which requires both construction of new housing and a means to immediately address the urgent housing affordability needs of Canadians.
Read the full National Housing Collaborative, National Portable Housing Benefit proposal.
Date Added: April 28, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, News, Policy, Research — Tags: 2017, budget, budget 2017, finance, ODSP, ontario, Ontario budget, OW, poverty, poverty in Ontario, social, social assistance — Adam Paralovos @ 3:32 pm
As the labour market becomes more precarious and with fewer employment-triggered disability benefits available, more people in Ontario need to access provincial social assistance. By increasing asset limits to social assistance, the 2017 Ontario Budget has made an essential step in reforming the system by significantly reducing restrictions to access the program.
Some background to this change: the allowable asset levels in Ontario’s two social assistance programs – Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) – have been very low since their implantation in the 1990’s. For instance, until last year a single person receiving OW could only have the equivalent to one months’ social assistance payment in assets. Why is restricting the amount of assets a bad idea? It has been argued that low asset levels undermine financial resiliency, work against the goal of returning a recipient to the workforce quickly, and jeopardize savings for retirement – all of which may cost governments more in the long term.
With this budget the provincial budget took a large step: liquid asset limits for single people receiving Ontario Works was increased to $10,000 from $2,500, and to $15,000 for couples from $5,000.
For those receiving ODSP, asset limits are being increased to $40,000 from $5,000 for single individuals, and to $50,000 for couples from $7,500.
Other commitments made in the provincial budget include:
- Increasing the income exemption for cash gifts for those receiving social assistance from $6,000 to $10,000;
- Increasing social assistance payments across the board by 2 per cent;
- Investing $30 million over the next three years in the Survivors of Domestic Violence Portable Housing Benefit Pilot, which will eventually support 3,000 people;
- $90 million to the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiatives;
- The addition of 24,000 licenced child care spaces, including 16,000 that will be subsidized;
- Universal prescription drug coverage to all children and youth 24 and under.
The province has also committed to a Supermarket Recovery Pilot Program, which will provide a one-time investment of $600,000 to make grants available to food banks and food rescue organizations to expand their capacity to transport and store surplus fresh and perishable food. This pilot was one of the top three ideas selected by the public for funding though the Budget Talks platform.
At Daily Bread, we are particularly pleased to see that many of our key recommendations to the province last year are moving forward in the 2017 budget.
These initiatives, along with the previously announced Basic Income Pilot that will begin in the summer in Hamilton, Lindsay and Thunder Bay, will continue the momentum to enable the further, large scale changes to the income security system in Ontario that can help reduce poverty and hunger in our communities.
Date Added: March 31, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Information, News, Research — Tags: benefits, Daily Bread, Daily Bread Food Bank, income, low income, tax, tax return, tax season, taxes — Adam Paralovos @ 2:07 pm
For thousands accessing food banks across Toronto, lack of income is the key driver of hunger. Clients on average spend 71 per cent of their income on rent, which leaves little for food and other necessities. For many, an extra hundred dollars or more a month could mean the difference between being able to afford groceries or having to access a food bank, being able to pay rent without skipping meals, or not needing to access a food bank as frequently.
While much needs to be done to improve and strengthen our social safety net and income security system, there is extra income that is already available through our tax system, but receiving these benefits is dependent on people filing their taxes.
Food banks can help remove barriers to accessing extra income
Sometimes people don’t file their taxes because they are not aware of the benefits to them, or may encounter other barriers due to the complexity and administrative requirements involved. Unfortunately, people on low incomes are losing out on potentially thousands of dollars of additional income because of these barriers.
Recognizing the barriers many low income people face in getting the benefits from tax filing, some food banks and other member agencies of Daily Bread Food Bank provide tax clinics and other tax filing assistance for their clients. With targeted outreach and administrative and technological support, many more low income people could be receiving all the benefits they’re entitled to receive.
Daily Bread Food Bank member agencies such as The Bluffs, New Toronto Street Food Bank, St. James Food Basket, Toronto West SDA, and Native Canadian Centre among many others offer tax filing assistance. These member agencies are similar to many other community tax clinics that provide trained volunteers, many through the Canada Revenue Agency’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), which help people file their taxes through one on one support. Through continued outreach such as this, hopefully more people who are less likely to file taxes will be able to do so, and be informed of all the benefits to which they’re entitled.
Who’s filing – and who’s not filing – by the numbers
In 2013 Daily Bread’s Who’s Hungry survey found that 72 per cent of respondents accessing food banks across the GTA had filed their income taxes that year.1 While it is good news that nearly three quarters of respondents filed their taxes and are getting the benefits they are entitled to, there are more than 25 per cent of clients who are potentially missing out. And despite outreach efforts to inform people of these benefits, newer strategies may be needed to reach those who are less likely to file.
The Maytree Foundation recently published a piece entitled “Filing taxes brings major benefits to people on low incomes”. The article, which will be referenced throughout this report, noted that while provincial and federal tax benefits such as the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security, and GST/HST credits can cumulatively add up to thousands of dollars of additional income for low income households, many miss out because they either don’t file or are not aware of what they’re eligible to apply for or even how to apply.
Of those who do not file, the Who’s Hungry survey found that certain demographic groups accessing food banks were less likely to file than others.2 They include single people, households receiving social assistance as a main form of income, and recent newcomers who have been in Canada for more than a year but less than four years. These groups are not mutually exclusive, and many issues they face overlap. Highlighting those groups who are less likely to file may help to provide some insight as to what some potential barriers to filing might be and where more outreach may be needed.
Single person households
Single person households are significantly less likely to have filed their taxes, with 69 per cent filing a tax return the previous year compared to 75 per cent for other household types.
Of all household types, working age single person households without children have the least amount of pre-retirement tax credits available to them, unlike households with children who can access various child tax benefits, including the Ontario Child Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. For single people living on low income, there may be less incentive to file taxes due to lack of awareness of the benefits that are available to them even if they had no employment income the previous year.
Social assistance as a main source of income
People receiving social assistance as their main form of income are also significantly less likely to have filed their taxes the previous year, with 70 per cent reporting that they filed compared with 78 per cent not receiving social assistance as their main form of income. Respondents who were not receiving social assistance as their main form of income were receiving other sources such as employment, pensions, or child tax benefits.
In addition to the misperception that if they don’t owe income tax there is little reason to file, people receiving social assistance may face other barriers. In Maytree’s article, it was noted that since the CRA is promoting electronic filing the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities or those who don’t have high-speed internet or a computer, may pose barriers. Clients living on social assistance spend the vast majority of their income on rent and utilities, and some may not be able to afford to have high speed internet at home.
The article also noted that “people with low incomes experiencing challenges or who have complex tax situations may need hands-on help to tax file, but can’t afford paid tax advisors and may not know where to turn for free help it it’s available in their community.”
Recent newcomers, for the purposes of this analysis defined as being in Canada for four years or less (but here for more than one year), are less likely to have filed their taxes. Fifty-seven per cent of recent newcomers filed their taxes the previous year, versus 76 per cent of those who are not recent newcomers.
The barriers faced by recent newcomers are similar to those faced by others, including lack of awareness of available benefits, cost, and lack of knowledge of the system that affect their ability to access a range of services beyond just financial ones. Limited knowledge of English could be another reason, with a previous study by Daily Bread noting that those who did not have a good command of the language were less likely to file.
Despite being more likely to file their taxes, low income seniors are still not receiving all the benefits they’re entitled to
According to the 2013 Who’s Hungry survey, respondents who were seniors 65 or older were significantly more likely to have filed their taxes: 85 per cent filed the previous year compared to 71 per cent who were not seniors. However, only 11 per cent were receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, even though many more were likely eligible. The most recent Who’s Hungry survey for 2016 did not ask a question about tax filing, but the number of seniors accessing the GIS had not significantly changed.
The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is part of a basic income-type program that exists for seniors in Canada. Low income seniors qualify for the GIS if they are receiving the Old Age Security pension (OAS), and have an annual income lower than a set threshold ($17,544 annually for a single person household, or approximately $1,500 per month). They also need to have resided in Canada for at least 10 years in order to receive it.
The Maytree report referenced an evaluation by Human Resources and Development Canada, which estimated that while 87 per cent of eligible seniors are accessing the GIS, there are potentially 200,000 more who may be missing out.
Food bank clients who are seniors provide some insight as to the circumstances of those who are not receiving the benefit.
The median monthly income reported by Who’s Hungry survey respondents 65 and over is $1,200 per month, which from a financial standpoint make them eligible for the GIS. While three quarters of survey respondents were not born in Canada, the vast majority – 74 per cent – have lived here at least 10 years or more which would make also them eligible due to their length of residence in Canada.
In order to receive the GIS, a senior must specifically request it when applying for OAS. While a much higher percentage of senior respondents (50%) reported that they were receiving OAS, it’s still possible that some are not applying for that source of income as well even though they’re entitled to it.
Because the application process for both OAS and GIS can be administratively complex without some assistance, language barriers may be a factor for some seniors in Toronto not accessing it. Fifty-one per cent of seniors reported not speaking English as their main language at home. Other seniors who have just turned 65 may not have applied in time, and are still receiving social assistance (either Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program) despite being qualified to receive seniors’ benefits that could increase their income by hundreds of dollars a month.
“Tax-filing is a proven way to improve the financial situation of Canadians with low incomes, but has yet to be fully exploited as a means to reduce poverty in Canada.”
– U. Bajwa
Accessing Income-Boosting Benefits Through Tax Filing – U. Bajwa for Prosper Canada
Filing Your First Tax Return in Canada: Free Resources For Newcomers – Toronto Public Library
As a doctor, here’s why I’m prescribing tax returns. Seriously. – Gary Bloch, Globe and Mail
1 The results from the 2013 Who’s Hungry survey are based on 1680 interviews conducted with people accessing food banks across the GTA.
2 Chi square analyses were conducted for the results in this report, with significance at the .05 level.
Date Added: January 24, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Information, News, Policy, Research — Tags: budget, Daily Bread Food Bank, federal budget, federal housing benefit, government, housing, national, national housing collaborative — Adam Paralovos @ 7:26 pm
The National Housing Collaborative is recommending a housing benefit for renters in the 2017 federal budget. A housing benefit, given directly to a tenant, would help to address the lack of income which drives the need to get emergency food relief from a food bank.
The financial pressure of housing costs is the key reason for the high demand on Toronto food banks, which saw over 900,000 visits in 2016. Daily Bread’s 2016 Who’s Hungry report showed that, on average, food bank clients spend 71 per cent of their income on rent and utilities; of those who reported skipping meals to pay for something else, the most commonly cited expense was rent.
“A portable housing benefit helps to address the demand side of affordable housing by increasing tenant incomes,” said Richard Matern, Director of Research and Communications at Daily Bread Food Bank. “To maximize its effectiveness in reducing poverty, a federal housing benefit should be one piece of the affordable housing response, in addition to increasing the supply of affordable housing.”
Working on the frontlines at Daily Bread and our 130 member agencies, we see far too often how people are forced to choose between buying food or paying rent. A housing benefit would go a long way toward helping to make sure that people don’t have to make those painful choices.
Read the Daily Bread press release about the federal housing benefit.
Date Added: January 11, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Member Agencies, News, Policy, Research — Tags: 2017, budget, city budget, Daily Bread Food Bank, government, map, toronto, wards — Adam Paralovos @ 1:47 pm
In order to balance the upcoming city budget, city departments have been instructed to cut their budgets by 2.6 per cent. This amounts to nearly $77 million in cuts, with the possibility of cuts to programs and services that help the most vulnerable in our city.
The city is looking into cutting homeless prevention services, dental programs, and rent subsidies for day care programs, in addition to stopping expansion of student nutrition programs.
The widening gap
While Toronto has a red-hot real estate market and a very competitive business environment, it also has the highest levels of working poor and child poverty in Canada.
City budgets that cut services to the most vulnerable, and increase user fees and transit costs well above the rate of inflation, while keeping property taxes below the rate of inflation, only reinforce this widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Budget cuts to the most vulnerable don’t save money – they just transfer the cost
Cutting or limiting the expansion of programs might balance a budget in the short term, but that does not eliminate their true cost – that cost is simply transferred to individuals.
Without student nutrition programs, many parents have to make choices about giving up food so their child can have breakfast, and many children may simply go to school hungry. Without daycare subsidies, parents may have to decide that taking that job may not be worth the cost of daycare. Without dental programs, people may have to sacrifice food money in order to fix that broken tooth.
Food banks across Toronto have been seeing a strong increase in demand in the past year, particularly in the former inner suburbs where the lower income population is more likely to live. Lack of affordable housing, combined with the recent rise in food prices, have led many to come to a food bank for the first time.
Food banks feed hungry Torontonians but are being stretched to their limits
Daily Bread Food Bank is a non-profit organization that provides food and support to almost 200 food programs and 136 member agencies across Toronto. Last year alone there were over 900,000 visits to these agencies and to North York Harvest food banks.
There are many Daily Bread Food Bank member agencies operating in almost every ward throughout the city. The majority of member agencies run their food programs in local churches and community centres. Dedicated staff and volunteers in these agencies pick up, stock, and distribute food to people in their community in addition to providing other services to support people on low incomes.
Food banks in the former inner suburbs are bursting at the seams, seeing a nearly 50 per cent increase in client demand since 2008. Food programs in the city core have disappeared or are at risk of disappearing due to gentrification, redevelopment and the accompanying increases in rent.
Despite being an essential source of food for tens of thousands of Torontonians, Daily Bread and food programs operate largely outside of government and do not receive government funding. On its own, Daily Bread moves about $22 million worth of food on a budget of about $8 million, relying primarily on private donations from individuals and corporations.
It is our hope that city council considers that cost savings in the short term need to be balanced against the financial and social impact on individuals living with low income, and on the non-profits that already struggle to serve them.
Find out more about the need for food banks in Toronto. Our most recent Who’s Hungry report is here: http://www.dailybread.ca/learning-centre/whos-hungry/
Daily Bread member agencies operate in almost every ward throughout the city. Find out more about food programs in your ward here: http://www.dailybread.ca/whoshungry/ward-map.html
Date Added: June 28, 2016 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Information, News, Policy, Research — Tags: budget, budget 2016, City council, Daily Bread Food Bank, Executive Committee, John Tory, letter, toronto — Adam Paralovos @ 9:00 am
Today, the Executive Committee at City Council will meet to discuss the Budget Committee’s recommendation that a 2.6 per cent cut to all budgets be implemented for this year’s budget, in order to balance it. In response, Daily Bread Food Bank sent the following letter to Mayor Tory and the Executive Committee expressing our concerns about a blanket cut to services.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Dear Mayor Tory and Executive Committee:
Tomorrow, you will have the opportunity to discuss how to make ends meet based on the budget committee’s call for a 2.6 per cent spending cut. This is the sixth consecutive year in which there will be budget reductions in a city which has unacceptable levels of poverty and hunger. Instead of making cuts that will negatively affect Toronto’s most vulnerable, we ask that you protect residents from further cuts to city services and infrastructure.
Daily Bread Food Bank is a non-profit organization that provides food and support to almost 200 food programs and 136 member agencies across Toronto. We ensure that those on low incomes who are struggling with hunger have access to nutritious food through food banks, homeless shelters, community food centres as well as meal programs. We also recognize that hunger is a symptom of poverty and to have any impact on reducing hunger, first we need to reduce poverty.
There is a widening gap between the have and have nots in this City. While Toronto has a red hot real estate market and a very competitive business environment, Toronto also has the highest levels of working poor and child poverty in Canada. And hunger is on the rise. Daily Bread’s latest Who’s Hungry report shows that there were nearly 900,000 visits to Toronto food banks last year, with a 45 per cent increase in visits to food banks in the inner suburbs since 2008. People are stretched to their limits due to high rental costs, and are skipping meals to afford TIC fare in order to get to jobs or doctors’ appointments. Member agencies are bursting at the seams in the former inner suburbs (e.g. Etobicoke and Scarborough), while food programs in the city core have disappeared or are at risk of disappearing due to gentrification, redevelopment and the accompanying increases in rent.
City budgets that see increases to user fees and transit costs well above the rate of inflation, while keeping property taxes below the rate of inflation, only reinforce this widening gap between the rich and the poor.
We ask that you do not balance a budget on the backs of the most vulnerable in Toronto.
Senior Manager, Research
Daily Bread Food Bank
T: 416-203-0050 ext. 288
Date Added: March 29, 2016 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, News, Research — Tags: 2016, budget, Daily Bread Food Bank, federal budget, finance, poverty — Adam Paralovos @ 1:46 pm
The 2016 Federal Budget brought the federal government back to the table when it comes to fighting poverty across the country. From the creation of a new federal child benefit to coordinating a national housing strategy, there is potential that these investments can make a substantial impact in poverty reduction when combined with provincial and local initiatives.
- Creation of the Canada Child Benefit
The new Canada Child Benefit announced in the federal budget is one of the biggest developments in social policy at the federal level in many years. This new progressive, non-taxable benefit has real potential to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. However the devil will be in the details when it comes to families receiving social assistance, who would be among the poorest families needing the maximum amount of the benefit the most.
The 2016 federal budget created the new Canada Child Benefit by consolidated the existing patchwork of federal child benefits, and targeting it so it could better benefit low income families. The Canada Child Benefit will provide a maximum annual benefit of up to$6,400 per child under the age of six, and up to $5,400 per child for those aged six through 17. According to the federal budget document, for families receiving less than $30,000 a year, this could mean a maximum increase of $1,548 per child under six, and a $1,484 increase for per child six and over.
In Toronto, 35 per cent of households accessing food banks are families with children. This extra income could make a big impact in reducing the need for food banks for these families. However, in order to ensure the families who need the support the most will benefit from the new Canada Child Benefit, it is important that the provinces and territories do not claw back that income from families receiving social assistance.
This is a particularly important consideration for those accessing food banks in Toronto, as nearly 60 per cent of families with children accessing food banks receive social assistance as their main form of income. While the previously implemented National Child Benefit Supplement allowed provinces and territories to claw back this income from families on social assistance, the federal government can take a strong lead in setting a standard of not allowing this income to be clawed back.
- Creation of a National Early Learning and Child Care Framework
Lack of affordable childcare is a significant financial barrier for many families. Past Who’s Hungry surveys found that almost a quarter of parents said that they could not enter the workforce because of both cost and access to daycare.
The federal budget proposed to invest $500 million in 2017–18 to support the establishment of a National Framework on Early Learning and Child Care, to be developed in consultation with the provinces, territories and indigenous communities beginning this year.
- Increased access to Employment Insurance
The most common reason people need a food bank for the first time is because they have lost their job.
Many cannot access E.I. because they do not have enough hours and have to apply directly to social assistance as a last resort. Increasing part time, contract and seasonal arrangements make acquiring enough hours to qualify more difficult.
The federal budget expands E.I. coverage to those that are new to or re-entering the labour force, by reducing the number of hours required for them have worked in order to be eligible for the program. This will expand access to the program for an estimated 50,000 additional claimants.
The budget also commits to reducing the waiting period to access E.I. from two weeks to one week. This will give people who have lost their jobs quicker access to a source of income.
- Topping up the Guaranteed Income Supplement for Seniors
Food insecurity among seniors has been increasing. The Canadian Community Health Survey reported a 24 per cent increase in the number of severely food insecure seniors from 2007 to 2012. For many seniors on low income, their pensions have not been able to keep up with rapidly rising food and housing costs.
The federal budget has committed to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement for single seniors with the lowest levels of income, increasing their payments by $947, as well as adjusting benefits on a quarterly basis to match increases in the cost of living.
The federal budget also commits to restoring the eligibility for Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement to age 65 from age 67. This is especially important for those living in poverty who will be able to receive this essential form of income when they turn 65.
- Increasing affordable housing and leading a National Housing Strategy
One of the most common barriers food bank clients face is the high cost of housing. Clients spend 71 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and one-third skip meals in order to be able to keep a roof over their heads. Toronto is becoming increasingly unaffordable for too many families, and the supply of subsidized housing units is way too small to be able to keep up with the demand.
The new federal budget makes a $2.3 billion commitment over two years to repair and retrofit existing subsidized housing units as well as creating new affordable housing. The budget also commits the federal government to leading the coordination of provinces, territories, and other groups to develop a National Housing Strategy. With the City of Toronto, the Province and Federal government now aligned in seeking to address the need of affordable housing, there is new opportunity to create long term, transformational change in this area.
Date Added: March 1, 2016 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, News, Policy, Research — Tags: budget 2016, finance, Ontario budget, poverty, poverty in Ontario, social assisstance — Adam Paralovos @ 8:56 am
The 2016 Ontario budget took bold steps to transform an outdated income security system.
In our 2016 pre-budget consultation, we asked for changes that would help more low income Ontarians live in good health and dignity, as well as move toward a modern income security system that supports people’s transitions to employment and improve their income security. These were recommendations that were reiterated from our 2015 submission, where we outlined 5 key ideas from the final report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, Brighter Prospects, which we wanted to see implemented.
In their latest budget, the province has set out commitments to address three of those ideas. They include the $100 total increase to Ontario Works rates for single adults without children; a commitment to reduce (to 100 per cent) the claw back rate on child support payments for households receiving social assistance; and laying the groundwork for the introduction of housing benefit for low income people to better afford their housing.
|Daily Bread Recommendation
||2016 Ontario Budget
|• Increasing the social assistance rates, in particular bringing the Ontario Works rate for single person households to the full $100 increase recommended by the commission.
||• Provided a further top-up to singles without children receiving Ontario Works — bringing their total increase to $25 per month more than last year, and $100 more per month than they received in 2012.
|• Setting a withdrawal rate for child support payments based on a rationale and empirical evidence, and less than the dollar for dollar clawback that exists currently.
||• A commitment to introduce changes to social assistance rules so that families receiving social assistance who receive child support payments can benefit from more of this income.
|• A commitment to examine and design a Housing Benefit to help all low income tenants in Ontario better afford their housing.
||• A commitment to the development of a framework for a portable housing benefit, and transformation of social and supportive housing programs.
• $2.4 million in 2016–17 to pilot a new portable housing benefit that would offer more options for those fleeing domestic violence, benefiting approximately 500 households.
In addition to these commitments, the province has also committed to Basic Income pilot project.
A “Basic Income” is an income which would provide households with enough money that they wouldn’t have to live in poverty. The amount of income a household receives would either replace or complement other forms of income they might be receiving, such as child tax benefits or social assistance, in order to bring them above a pre-determined “poverty line”.
Many see the idea of a basic income as one that replaces the outdated form of provincial social assistance which provides only very low levels of income, as well as has restrictive rules which create barriers to escaping poverty. In the 2016 budget, the province seeks to pilot a project which would address these issues, including providing improved and more seamless financial support for those making the transition from welfare to work.
We’re hopeful that the results of this pilot project will provide the evidence needed to create further, large scale changes to the income security support system in Ontario.
Other important steps that still need to be taken
In the meantime, the Province should continue to increase the liquid assets allowable for those on social assistance. Low asset limits can undermine financial resiliency and jeopardizes retirement savings, which makes it more difficult to escape poverty and may cost the government more in the long term. Currently, the allowable level of liquid assets is $2,500 for single people receiving Ontario Works and $5,000 for those on the Ontario Disability Support Program. While the allowable assets for those receiving Ontario Works have increased significantly in the last few years, Ontario should continue to increase asset levels for both programs in the near future.
Additionally, there needs to be work to replace rent scales in Rent Geared to Income (RGI) housing with the 30 per cent of income RGI calculation outlined in the Brighter Prospects report, which will help prevent the sudden spike in rent for tenants receiving social assistance who are able to earn added income from employment.
Date Added: January 27, 2016 | Filed under: Blog, Government, News, Research — Tags: budget 2016, finance, Ontario budget, Ontario Works, poverty, poverty in Ontario, social assistance — Adam Paralovos @ 3:49 pm
In order to make a real impact in helping to reduce hunger for our vulnerable residents, strong investments have to be made in it so that people can better afford to purchase their own food. In addition, new approaches to coordination and planning have to take into account the extensive network of community-based food organizations that already exist.
On November 4, 2015, Council unanimously approved TO Prosperity, Toronto’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy which recommended actions to create good jobs, improved transit, housing, childcare and other services. Given that all three levels of government are now committed to poverty reduction, the stars have aligned and there is potential to make a large dent in the growing poverty in our City.
In a letter signed by leaders from over 50 civic organizations including Daily Bread Food Bank, and endorsed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, groups urged Mayor John Tory and members of Toronto City Council to move on 49 recommendations that will advance the city’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The recommendations in this letter came from hundreds of individuals and community groups who took part in consultations through the Commitment 2 Community coalition. Their input in these consultations was guided from seeing or experiencing first-hand the impact of poverty. While the majority of these recommendations would require no monetary investment in 2016, the City’s proposed $6 million falls far short of the $75 million required to implement the remaining third of the recommendations.
It is important that the 2016 Budget make a significant down payment toward reducing poverty in our City. Through a combination of new approaches, careful planning and strong investment, the City has potential to both improve the quality of life for its vulnerable citizens, and the ability for front line agencies such as food banks to better address hunger in our communities.
Helping Toronto residents afford food
“I’ve been waiting for housing for 5 years and they tell me it’s another 10 year wait. All the money I get goes to rent.” Respondent from Who’s Hungry survey
Daily Bread’s latest Who’s Hungry report shows that there were nearly 900,000 visits to Toronto food banks in the last year alone, with a 45 per cent increase in the inner suburbs since 2008. On average food bank clients are spending 71 per cent of their income on rent, and access help for an average of two years, whereas a few years ago it was only one year. Even though a main driving force of food bank use is due to social assistance policy at the Provincial level, many day to day struggles for clients intersect with other issues that affect their ability to afford food, including high housing, child care, and transit costs. These are areas that the city can have an impact on through some of these recommendations from the coalition, which would result in concrete outcomes that could reduce the need for food banks for clients of Daily Bread member agencies. They include: making rents affordable for 7,000 households; providing access to subsidized childcare to 1,500 children in families that are struggling to afford childcare; and ensuring stable jobs and decent wages for workers delivering city services.
Helping food programs access suitable space
“We’re in a vulnerable neighbourhood, but don’t have access to a suitable space that’s affordable – we’re a breath away from having to close.” Helena Houldcroft, Flemingdon Park Food Bank
Daily Bread Food Bank is a non-profit organization that provides food and support to almost 200 food programs and 136 member agencies across Toronto. There are many Daily Bread Food Bank member agencies operating in almost every ward throughout the city. The majority of our member agencies run their food programs in local churches and community centres. Dedicated staff and volunteers in these agencies pick up, stock, and distribute food to people in their community in addition to providing other services to support people on low incomes.
While the goodwill and workforce to distribute food to those that are hungry are bountiful, the available space to run these programs are not. Available space to operate food programs in the inner suburbs is sparse, and those that are available are bursting at the seams to accommodate the 45 per cent increase in visits since 2008. The spaces that already exist, especially those in the city core, are at risk of being lost or are already disappearing due to rising rents, redevelopment, and relocation. Some examples include:
- A food bank in Flemingdon Park, struggling to pay its rent, having to operate out of an inaccessible basement despite being located in an area with high levels of poverty;
- A pre-natal program serving pregnant mothers and infants in Parkdale that can only serve a fraction of the number of families it could serve previously due to being relocated to a much smaller space;
- A food bank in east Toronto being closed due to high rent.
Despite being an essential source of food for tens of thousands of Torontonians, Daily Bread and food programs operate largely outside of government and do not receive government funding. On its own, Daily Bread moves about $22 million worth of food on a budget of about $7 million, relying primarily on private donations from individuals and corporations. The impact of this money could be far greater if the City could assist in increasing the availability of space, either through its own properties, or helping to make connections with those that have access to space. This would enable the City to play an essential role in helping to reduce hunger, and do so at little, if any, cost. A key recommendation from the coalition – ensure programs have access to schools and other facilities – requires no cost, but would need strategic coordination and planning, and consultation with communities in need.
Providing support for small infrastructure
“If you don’t have proper storage it doesn’t matter how much food you have.” Food Bank Coordinator
Where many local food banks face serious financial constraints is the ability to afford the infrastructure requirements necessary to run food programs that meet the needs of local communities. As one participant in Daily Bread’s consultation mentioned, if you don’t have proper storage facilities, it doesn’t matter how much food you have. In addition to the lack of space mentioned previously, many food programs have difficulty affording and repairing the large commercial freezers that are necessary for storing perishable food. Another recommendation from the coalition asked for “3 to 5 more staff to support the development of community food hubs and funds for small infrastructure.” Support of the infrastructure that already exists in Toronto could include that a granting process be made available for food programs which could provide the capital and core funding for essential equipment like large freezers, and other infrastructure improvements.
A Vision of Ending Hunger in our City
The City of Toronto has produced a bold strategy to reduce poverty in our City. In order to make a real impact in helping to reduce hunger for our vulnerable residents, strong investments have to be made in it so that people can better afford to purchase their own food. In addition, new approaches to coordination and planning have to take into account the extensive network of community-based food organizations that already exist. Daily Bread, and its vast agency network that helps feed Toronto, work to provide nutritious food for thousands of people who cannot afford it. With a strong financial commitment to the Poverty Reduction Strategy from the City, we can make a real difference in ending poverty and hunger in our communities.