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: 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: November 15, 2016 | Filed under: Blog, Information, News, Policy — Tags: Daily Bread Food Bank, food bank clients, food insecurity, low income, policy, Whos Hungry — Adam Paralovos @ 10:48 am
By: Haiat Iman, Research and Survey Coordinator
After Daily Bread Food Bank released the 2016 Who’s Hungry report, Daily Bread held informal focus groups with food bank clients. This two-part series describes clients’ day-to-day experience of food insecurity and their survival strategies. Read the second blog post in this series here.
“If you don’t have cooking facilities or can’t use your kitchen for whatever reason, you only buy foods that you can store in your room.” – Food bank client
In their article “The “Welfare Diet” 20 years later: The growing nutrition crisis for Ontario’s poorest people” co-authors John Stapleton, a board member of Daily Bread, and Jamille Clarke-Darshanand present various theories that explain why people on low income don’t have healthier diets.
One factor is having access to what Stapleton calls the Big Four: storage, cooking, refrigeration and freezing facilities. The presence or absence of the Big Four affect the food that people on low incomes can regularly – and safely – eat.
What if you don’t have food storage?
Daily Bread Food Bank’s focus group participants reported that in homes where kitchens are shared (such as rooming houses or subsidized housing), appliances and food are at risk of being stolen, so tenants keep food in their rooms. This not only limits how much they can keep and refrigerate at one time, but also dictates what they are able to bring home from the food bank or the grocery store.
What if you don’t have anywhere to cook?
Focus group participants who have nowhere to heat up food report that they will drink a can of soup cold. Some clients also reported that they don’t buy or take home canned foods such as soups or tuna from the grocery stores or food banks because they do not own or have access to a can opener.
What if you don’t have reliable refrigeration and freezing facilities?
One client who lives in a rooming house reported that he doesn’t use the kitchen to store or cook his food. Instead, he uses a mini bar fridge which he keeps in his room, and shops for items that he knows he can fit into it. The bar fridge also didn’t keep milk cold enough so it went bad quickly. Currently, he has access to a freezer so he buys three bags of milk, and stores two in the freezer, so if one bag of milk goes bad, it’s only a partial loss. A smaller carton of milk would fit in his fridge but is less economical.
Without access to proper refrigeration facilities he isn’t able to purchase fresh produce, and he is limited in how much food he can buy due to the limited space in his fridge. He chooses to purchase foods that don’t require refrigeration, stocking up on canned soup because it is easy to store and prepare. He heats it up on a hot plate which he also keeps in his room.
“Without secure housing, there is nowhere to store food safely and protect it from theft. In public housing, appliances break down regularly and take a long time to get fixed. Hydro costs are very high, and are often exacerbated by monthly interest on unpaid bills. Without access to the big four, it is difficult for the poor to consume a healthy diet.“
–from The “Welfare Diet” 20 years later: The growing nutrition crisis for Ontario’s poorest people
Date Added: | Filed under: Blog, News, Policy — Tags: Daily Bread Food Bank, food bank clients, food insecurity, low income, policy, Whos Hungry — Adam Paralovos @ 10:48 am
By: Haiat Iman, Research and Survey Coordinator
After Daily Bread Food Bank released the 2016 Who’s Hungry report, Daily Bread held informal focus groups with food bank clients. This two-part series describes clients’ day-to-day experience of food insecurity and their survival strategies. Read the first blog post in this series here.
Hunger has become a distressing reality for many families in Toronto. The number of people reliant on food banks as a source of food has reached alarming heights and is still rising, with a 13% increase in food bank visits since 2008.
According to the 2016 Who’s Hungry report, the average income of a food bank client is $750 per month, with at least 71% of their incomes spent on rent and utilities. On average, once rent and utilities were paid, food bank clients had $7.09 left over for any additional expenses, including food.
Food banks are also struggling: declines in donations and increases in a need for food aid challenge food banks’ ability to assist all those who seek their services. People struggling with hunger are forced to be resourceful in their abilities to stretch their dollars and make their food supply last.
Focus group participants reported numerous ways in which they stretch their limited food resources when they do not have the means to purchase additional food.
• Those who have no money either do without a meal or find organizations that offer meal programs – but to exercise the latter option, however, requires that one be mobile: they must have access to transportation to get to these locations or be healthy enough to walk there.
• Some focus group participants volunteer at food banks to get extra food.
• Many respondents reported that they ration their meals, water down their soups, or try to stay full on liquids.
• Some food bank clients say they have condensed milk and a few bags of tea steeping all day on the stove for anyone to drink in order to stay full.
• Some reported watering down juice to make it last longer.
• Some pooled their resources with others who struggle with hunger and shared a meal together.
Daily Bread Food Bank’s annual Who’s Hungry report offers detailed statistics and analysis about the impact of food insecurity in Toronto.
To read the most recent report, go to: http://www.dailybread.ca/whoshungry/
Date Added: June 30, 2016 | Filed under: Blog, Government, News, Policy — Tags: child poverty, child support clawback, Daily Bread Food Bank, Minister Helena Jaczek — Adam Paralovos @ 3:09 pm
The Minister of Community and Social Services, Helena Jaczek, announced today that the Ontario government will no longer claw back child support payments. Currently, a parent on social assistance and receiving child support payments has their social assistance reduced by the amount they receive in child support.
Reducing the clawback of child support payments from social assistance is something that Daily Bread has advocated strongly for. In Daily Bread’s 2015 and 2016 Ontario budget submissions, we asked for a withdrawal rate as a strong first step in the right direction. The complete elimination of the clawback of child support payments is excellent news. We are hopeful it will go a long way to reducing the number of children and youth in poverty and in need of food programs in Ontario. Currently, over a third of people coming to food banks in Toronto are children.
The Minister has also announced an Income Security Working Group, tasked with coming up with a concrete plan to improve the lives of people on low incomes in Ontario. Daily Bread’s board member, John Stapleton, is a member of this group. This group will be working in conjunction with a Basic Income pilot project that is scheduled to roll out in 2017.
Click here to read the Ontario government’s announcement to end the child support clawback.
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 21, 2016 | Filed under: Blog, Government, News, Policy — Anderson @ 3:52 pm
Did you listen to our Telephone Town Hall last month?
On Tuesday, the federal government is expected to release the budget. Will poverty reduction be a priority for the new government in this budget? We certainly hope so. At Daily Bread’s Telephone Town Hall last month, Daily Bread assembled a panel of experts to discuss what the federal government could do to reduce poverty in Canada. Michael Mendelson (Caledon Institute of Social Policy), John Stapleton (Metcalf Foundation and Daily Bread board member) and Anita Khanna (Campaign 2000 National Campaign Coordinator) discussed child benefits and affordable housing issues, as well as taking calls from listeners.
Missed it? You can catch up here by listening to the audio online.
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: October 14, 2015 | Filed under: Blog, News, Policy, Research — Tags: Daily Bread Food Bank, John Stapleton, The Welfare diet, Toronto food bank visits — Anderson @ 2:28 pm
How even the paltriest shopping list became unaffordable for those receiving social assistance
In their paper “The Welfare Diet, 20 years later”, John Stapleton and Jamille Clarke-Darshanand mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of a sample shopping list which was used to demonstrate what a single person receiving welfare could afford to purchase. This shopping list, created by the provincial government at the time, was used to justify the massive welfare rate cut they implemented a couple of months earlier.
This shopping list was very sparse by any standard; it didn’t include staple items such as salt, pepper, or pasta sauce (although it did contain pasta), and was far from nutritionally complete. However, the authors’ show in their paper how the cost of even this bare bones diet has increased at a rate that has far outstripped core inflation, let alone the income provided by social assistance.
It was 20 years ago that the provincial Conservative government at the time cut welfare rates by over 21 per cent. It was an action which was purportedly implemented to discourage dependence on “the system”. Instead, it led to vastly increased hardship for thousands of Ontarians, and a huge surge in food bank visits at a rate which hasn’t been seen quite to the same extent since.
Within a two year period from 1995 to 1997, food bank visits in Toronto skyrocketed by almost 40 per cent. Another huge surge took place after the 2008 recession, but even a global economic crash did not have quite the same effect as that one government action made at policy level 20 years earlier.
Source: Food bank visit numbers from Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest member agencies
In the years following that massive rate cut, welfare rates remained frozen until 2003, and have been raised only marginally since. Using the “welfare diet” as a benchmark, the paper demonstrates that the cost of food has gone up by 107 per cent since 1995. By contrast, core inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has gone up by 45 per cent, while the rate for a single person receiving welfare has gone up by just 31%.
While the rate for a single person household is used as an example, social assistance rates for all household types, including people receiving provincial disability assistance, face a similar deficit.
Source: John Stapleton and Jamille Clarke-Darshanand, “The Welfare Diet 20 years later” The growing nutrition crisis for Ontario’s poorest people. September 2015. (Author’s note).
With the price inflation of food accelerating in the last couple years, especially meat, fruits and vegetables, it is not surprising that people living on fixed incomes such as social assistance or pensions are having an increasingly difficult time affording an adequate diet. While housing related costs are the biggest financial pressure for people accessing food banks in Toronto, the rising costs of food have added to the burden.
At food banks we see more people who, a couple years ago, may have been able to afford to shop at a grocery store a couple times a month – and now can hardly afford to shop at all. This includes people with disabilities and people receiving pensions. In 2005, households receiving provincial disability assistance were 18 per cent of those accessing food banks in Toronto; now they make up 34 per cent.
Torontonians are also accessing food banks in Toronto for longer periods than before: where previously the average duration was 12 months; that average has now doubled to 24 months. More and more, food banks are becoming less of short term, stop-gap measure, and more of a long term coping strategy.
As the paper mentions, this all means we have a disaster-in-waiting regarding health and human costs. As the federal election quickly approaches, it is all the more important that addressing poverty and hunger are prominent on the campaign radar.
To download a pdf copy of the full report, ‘The Welfare Diet, 20 Years Later’, please click here.
To read the full story on this report in the Toronto Star, click here.