The Federal budget was released this week, and Daily Bread Food Bank co-hosted other local non-profit organizations to review results.
The online, real-time network event with Ontario for All brought sector experts together to learn from each other as we read through the hundreds of pages in the document which accompanies the Federal Finance Minister’s speech.
The common consensus which emerged among the people with lived experience and gathered experts in housing, social assistance, disability, and food security: For low-income families and individuals, this federal budget was pretty anticlimactic. Not much will change for low-income people soon, but some small steady steps are being taken.
Below is a brief synopsis of what we heard:
This budget makes some of its biggest investments in seniors. Old Age Security programs are being buoyed up with the promise of indexing (raising the rates in line with inflation). There is also a promised 10% increase for seniors on the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). Many food banks are reporting a rise in the number of seniors, so these improvements should be good news.
The announcement of a national child care program is a significant step forward for working parents. Other mentions in the federal budget had been announced in the throne speech and government mandate letters. This includes a new school lunch program. Hidden in the small print is the phasing out of the top-up to the Canada Child Benefit.
While the national Dental Program is a headline, it has a less immediate effect in Ontario as children and seniors already can access dental care under existing programs. More low-income Ontarians will be helped once this program is expanded in in 2023 to people living with a disability, and to all Canadians by 2025.
The government is predicting a drop in spending for Employment Insurance over the next few years. This is an optimistic signal for of the many new food bank users who lost their jobs over the course of the pandemic. The federal government expectations are to see a decline in COVID-19 benefit payments, and an improvement in the job market.
In response, the Budget includes an expansion of the Canada Workers Benefit (equaling up to $1,000 annually to full-time, Minimum Wage workers) and an extension of EI sick leave from 15 weeks to 26 weeks this summer. The federal minimum wage is being raised to $15.55 per hour.
Movement on the 10-year National Housing Strategy continues. Co-op housings and purpose-built rental housing are both seeing improved access to loans and funding. The Rapid Housing Initiative, which supported the new modular housing sites in Toronto, is also being extended.
For low-income individuals, renters who are facing “housing affordability challenges” may receive a one-time $500 grant (details TBA). A new Veteran Homelessness Program is also being launched.
The Budget also includes:
- A section focused on Reconciliation.
- New CRA powers to collect CERB over-payments (excepting seniors) and increased focus on tax evasion among higher-income residents.
- Funding for cities to address 2021 pandemic transit losses.
- An injection to Legal Aid for asylum-seekers and those facing criminal court.
- New disbursement requirement for large charities, moving from 3.5% to 5% and a potentially expanded ability to disperse funds to groups without a charitable status.
Click here for full budget details.