Date Added: March 12, 2018 | Filed under: Blog, News, Research — Tags: 2018, canada, Canada Workers Benefit, Daily Bread, Daily Bread Food Bank, Equity, federal, federal budget, Vital Signs, Vital Signs Report, Who's Hungry report, Whos Hungry — Adam Paralovos @ 12:05 pm
Two recent events were significant in shining a spotlight on poverty in Toronto: the release of the Vital Signs report, which demonstrated the growing inequities in our city, and the release of the federal budget, which showed the important role the federal government has in improving the health of our cities.
The Vital Signs report, the Toronto Foundation’s annual snapshot of urban life, showed that Toronto is increasingly becoming two cities – one underserved, one not – with quality of life greatly impacted by income, race, immigration status, gender, sexual identity, and age.
Vital Signs referenced Daily Bread’s 2017 Who’s Hungry report to help illustrate this increasing inequity, highlighting how Toronto food banks saw almost 1 million visits last year, with the most sustained increase among those aged 45 and up1. This increase happened despite on-paper prosperity and low unemployment rates.
How can a robust economy and recession-era food bank demand co-exist? The answer relates to the labour market.
People who have fallen out of the labour market, such as seniors or those with a disability who cannot work, are having an increasingly difficult time keeping up with rapidly rising costs of living. The labour market itself is also becoming more fragmented and less likely to provide steady income.
And while there has been a pervasive shift in the labour market from full-time employment to more part-time and casual work, there is evidence this shift may not be impacting everyone equally. The Vital Signs report highlighted that racialized groups are more likely than non-racialized groups to be working in precarious or part-time work without benefits2.
Similarly, the Who’s Hungry survey found that recent newcomers, including many from Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria, are almost twice as likely than non-recent newcomers to be receiving their main source of income from employment.
Despite earning more than the minimum wage, respondents reported only being able to get jobs with part-time hours, and having to skip meals because they are paying upwards of 74 per cent of their income on rent3. With this kind of financial pressure, skipping meals and/or accessing food banks becomes a necessity, despite living in the wealthiest city in the country.
The 2018 Federal Budget and the Canada Workers Benefit
The 2018 Federal Budget took an important step in acknowledging the increasing precariousness of the labour market by creating what the budget referred to as a more “generous” and “accessible” Working Income Tax Benefit, now rebranded as the Canada Workers Benefit.
The 2018 federal budget commits to increasing the amounts given to those who are eligible, as well as increasing eligibility by expanding the income range so more low income workers can access it.
For instance, a single parent or couple earning $25,000 a year could receive as much as $717 more from the program in 2019 than in 2018. And those earning $30,000 per year are now eligible to receive the benefit, whereas in 2018 they would have not been eligible. A single, unattached person could receive up to $500 more from the program, and singles earning $20,000 a year are now eligible. This is an important step towards greater income security and we are pleased to see it come to fruition.
In 2007 Daily Bread had praised the introduction of the Working Income Tax Benefit, but we also pushed for a more generous benefit that would provide more money and raising the “phase-out” points so more working poor could access it. This is particularly important for income security for many working poor, including food bank clients, who receive more than the minimum wage but are restricted in the number of hours they get at work.
Automatic enrolment in the Canada Workers Benefit – just as important in the increase in benefits itself
The federal budget also commits to increasing access to the benefit by enabling the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to automatically determine eligibility, instead of a potential recipient having to apply separately and potentially miss out on receiving the benefit. All too often we see food bank clients, seniors in particular, who are not accessing their benefits because of a lack of awareness, no access to internet, or not being able to read the forms due to language barriers. Moving to automatic enrolment is just as important a step as the increase in benefits itself, which the government estimates will enable 300,000 additional low-income workers to access it.
But it is worth highlighting again that what appears to be simply an administrative change (automatic enrolment in the CWB) can have a potentially large impact on improving the lives of people living on low income, particularly groups such as recent newcomers, those who don’t speak English as a first language, and other vulnerable populations who are more likely to encounter administrative barriers when trying to access government services. This is what we are calling the pragmatic face of equity.
Other measures in the federal budget, such as investments in affordable housing, and indexing child and seniors benefits to inflation underscore the federal government’s crucial role in income support – indeed, what is becoming more evident is that all three levels of government have a role to play in helping to create more equitable and just cities.
1 Toronto Vital Signs 2017-2018, pg. 35.
2 Vital Signs Report 2017-2018, pg.71.
3 2017 Who’s Hungry, pg.29.
Date Added: February 8, 2018 | Filed under: Blog, Government, Information, News, Research — Tags: 2018, A roadmap for change, budget, Daily Bread, Daily Bread Food Bank, government, ontario, Ontario budget, ontario budget 2018, provincial government, roadmap — Adam Paralovos @ 10:34 am
In November 2017, the provincial government released “Income Security: A Roadmap for Change”, written by three groups that were appointed by the Minister of Community and Social Services (MCSS) in 2016 to give advice on how to reform Ontario’s income security system.
The Roadmap made some important recommendations, including significantly increasing social assistance rates, making the system less punitive, and implementing an Ontario Housing Benefit.
The 2018 Ontario Budget provides an opportunity to immediately invest in two recommendations proposed by the Roadmap:
- Implement a Standard Flat Rate, collapsing the Basic Needs Allowance and Shelter Allowance portions of social assistance into one amount;
- Setting this Standard Flat Rate to $794 per month for Ontario Works and $1,209 for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
While greater investments will still need to be made to bring people out of poverty, these will be crucial steps that have the power to transform the system and can have an impact on people struggling with hunger in Toronto.
The Standard Flat Rate
In Daily Bread’s 2016 Who’s Hungry report we profiled Tim, a food bank client and volunteer who had lost his job after 30 years and was homeless. Tim’s health was deteriorating, and his condition was exacerbated from having to sleep outdoors. Because he couldn’t work and had no other income options he was able to access Ontario Works but was in a catch-22: because he was homeless, he was not entitled to receive the Shelter Allowance, only the Basic Needs Allowance – a little over $300 a month. Because of this bureaucratic separation between the Basic Needs and Shelter portions of Ontario Works, Tim was receiving only half of an already low level of income support, creating another barrier to his escaping homelessness.
Tim’s situation reveals one of many structural flaws of the present social assistance system, but the 2018 Ontario Budget presents an opportunity to correct this flaw: implementing a Standard Flat Rate, which would collapse the Basic Needs and Shelter allowances into one amount. This change would ensure that everyone receiving social assistance would have the same level of support, regardless of whether they are homeless, renting or owning, or live in rent-geared-to-income housing.
This change would also help accommodate various living arrangements people have to make in today’s challenging rental market in order to maintain housing, such as sharing accommodation with others. The present system is designed to monitor and regulate people’s living situation by basing rates on shelter costs, and where and with whom you live. This creates further hardship and barriers to those receiving assistance, as well as adding to the administrative burden of the system and the front line workers trying to help individuals in need.
Increasing social assistance rates and developing a Minimum Income Standard
We know that the main driver of the need for food banks in Toronto is lack of income: this is in large part due to the extremely low levels of income provided by provincial social assistance.
The majority of clients accessing food banks in Toronto receive one of two provincial social assistance programs as their main source of income. According to Daily Bread’s most recent Who’s Hungry survey, 64% rely on either Ontario Works or ODSP as their main source of income.
As the labour market continues its shift from full-time employment to part-time employment, greater numbers of people out of work are forced to rely on provincial social assistance, and those with a disability are less likely to be able to access employer-triggered disability income programs.
Despite being a crucial source of income support for almost a million Ontarians, the levels of income have fallen so far behind inflation there would need to be a 41% increase in OW payments, and a 23% increase in ODSP payments, for them to be equivalent to what they were worth in 1993.
In order to address this crucial gap in income adequacy, the Roadmap proposes that rates be immediately increased by 10% for a single person receiving Ontario Works and 5% increase for those on ODSP. This increase would bring amounts to $794 and $1,209 respectively.
While the working group chose an amount that the government could realistically implement, it was recommended that the government move as quickly as possible to move those in deepest poverty towards an adequate level of income that more accurately reflects actual living costs.
While the Roadmap proposes this initially be done through direct increases to social assistance rates, the report states that the goal should be to bring every household in the province to a “Minimum Income Standard” through a combination of social assistance and other income supports by 2027-2028.
The defined Minimum Income Standard would initially be set at the same level as the official Low-Income Measure used by the province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (LIM-50) plus an additional 30% added for persons with a disability.
To reach this minimum standard would require supports that go beyond increases to provincial social assistance rates, and be part of a “building block” approach that combines municipal, provincial and federal cash benefits as well as housing supports and core health benefits (such as prescription drug coverage). This could also include a portable housing benefit, proposed by the Roadmap as a universal, income-tested benefit to provide direct financial assistance to help with high rental costs.
The Roadmap for Change provides achievable targets and tactics that will effect real change in the lives of people struggling with hunger and poverty in Ontario.
The Ontario Budget 2018 is a chance to take a solid step in the right direction and reach those targets.
Let’s get moving.
Date Added: January 19, 2018 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Information, Member Agencies, News, Research — Tags: city, council, Daily Bread Food Bank, government, member agencies, policy, research, scarborough, toronto, toronto food policy council — Adam Paralovos @ 2:07 pm
“We need to figure out a way to fund agencies to ensure that people have the nourishment that they need…It’s a shame that this is something that is needed, but it is. And we need to do our best as a city to find space for them.” Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) – Article from the Toronto Star, Tues. Jan 2, 2018
In its pre-budget submission to the City, the Toronto Food Policy Council made several recommendations to be considered in the 2018 Poverty Reduction Strategy work plan, including requesting the availability for space for a range of food related programming1.
Daily Bread Food Bank echoes this recommendation, in particular the recommendation to enable access to space in Toronto Community Housing properties for food banks and other food programming available to the wider community.
In many cases, accessing suitable space from which to distribute food can be as challenging as keeping up with the demand for food. In its commitment to its Poverty Reduction Strategy and creating a more fair and equitable city, the City of Toronto can use the 2018 budget as a recognition of the rapidly growing numbers of people struggling with hunger by providing access to its surplus space from which to run community led food programs such as food banks, at little or no extra cost to the city.
Demand for food banks in Toronto is growing rapidly, but available spaces from which to operate them are shrinking
From April 2016 to March 2017, there were a total of 990,970 client visits to Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank member agencies. This is the highest annual client visit number in Toronto since 2010, when the effects of the 2008 recession hit Torontonians with full force. This is 9 per cent higher than 2016, and 24 per cent higher than 2008.
The surge in demand has not only affected food banks’ ability to provide food, but in some cases their ability to accommodate growing numbers of clients in program spaces. Last year, 22 per cent of Daily Bread agencies reported they had difficulty in providing adequate waiting room space to accommodate people accessing the program.
The majority of Daily Bread’s 130 member agencies run their food programs in local churches and community centres, and the space available to accommodate clients is varied: some have large open spaces in churches, while others have their clients line in hallways, stairwells or outside. Challenges related to space include property maintenance and accessibility issues in the case of church-run programs, and lack of space and rent increases for some community centres. As Toronto continues to gentrify and available space with which to run food programs becomes more expensive and precarious, more neighbourhood food banks across the city will struggle accommodating clients in the future as the need continues to grow.
When does access to space for food programs in Toronto become an equity issue? The Scarborough story
The most recent census data shows that census tracts with the highest concentrations of people living with low income, as well as highest percentages of visible minorities, are in the northern and outer reaches of the city. Coincidentally, those are also the areas where there are not enough food banks to keep up with the demand; existing food banks are also located so far apart many clients can`t afford transportation to get to them. Additionally, the spaces in which these programs operate are themselves vulnerable to rapidly rising rent costs.
For Daily Bread member agencies, the area of the city where the issue of space is of particular concern is Scarborough.
“Currently we do not pay rent, however [the housing provider] is considering implementing a rent or utility cost for commercial tenants like us. We have significantly outgrown this space but with no rent n our budget, we are unable to move to a more suitable location.” Food bank in Scarborough
A hot real estate market is making it increasingly difficult for some food programs to either find or maintain a suitable space from which to operate. While some food programs are run by faith-based groups who have space provided free of charge by the sponsoring organization, others, such as those located in larger community centres or public housing units, have to pay for the space. This is especially an issue in north and east Scarborough which, compared to the city core, have less “’faith-based infrastructure” such as church space, which means food programs have to find other space that they can afford.
Food banks in Toronto, including those operated by multiservice centres, do not receive government funding and mostly rely on private donations. As affordable space in Toronto becomes more challenging to find, many food banks, including those in Scarborough, will be in an increasingly vulnerable position to maintain their operations, despite rapidly increasing need.
Of the seven wards in Scarborough that have Daily Bread member agency food banks:
- Five have shown increases of over 10 per cent in client visits in the last year alone;
- Wards 39 and 40, both in the Agincourt area of north Scarborough, have seen increases of over 70 per cent, the highest increases in the city.
Food banks in Scarborough report seeing high numbers of recent newcomers, including convention refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. Many are paying on average 82 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and have very little left over for essentials like food.
And it’s not just food banks that struggle to find or maintain space to operate in these areas. Other kinds of food-related programming that can be essential tools of community development for low income or newcomer communities, such as urban farming or community kitchens, also face ongoing roadblocks in finding space to run programs.
Many would agree that being able to access food is a human right. However lack of adequate income supports, alongside diminishing space from which to help low income communities, mean that this right is becoming increasingly out of reach for too many.
Help create a more equitable city: enable food banks to have more access to city-owned space.
By identifying and facilitating access to space of City owned properties for food access, the City can demonstrate its commitment to its Poverty Reduction Strategy, as well as equity and human rights.
Link to Daily Bread’s Who’s Hungry Report: http://www.dailybread.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Whos-Hungry-2017.pdf
Link to ward map of Daily Bread agencies: http://www.dailybread.ca/wardmap
1 “That City staff identify spaces for use by community-led initiatives (both growing spaces, and office, program and cooking spaces), based on current inventories of surplus space, and that staff focus on NIAs in identifying these spaces.” Letter from the Toronto Food Policy Council to the Executive Committee of Toronto City Council, November 27, 2017.
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