Food banks across Canada are preparing for a surge in need as the economy slows due to COVID-19. While food banks are able to support households in meeting their immediate food needs, food banks are not a solution to poverty. As the province responds to the COVID-19 crisis, they are simultaneously working towards developing a new poverty reduction strategy.
To support low-income households, we need to think about the immediate need created by COVID-19, as well as the longer-term impacts of a potential financial recession. Ontario currently has 1.57 million people in Ontario living in poverty, including 382,000 children. A recession will likely lead to that number rising significantly.
We were pleased to hear on March 23 that Ontario’s government is committing $200 million in financial supports for the social service sector, including increasing access to Emergency Assistance funding to help tide people over while they await federal benefits, such as Employment Insurance (EI).
But we need further action to prevent families from falling into financial crisis at this difficult time. There are steps that our government can take today to meet immediate needs, while also setting the foundation to respond to the financial uncertainty ahead. People are Ontario’s greatest asset, and we need to invest in people to rebuild our economy.
Recommendation to Provide Immediate COVID-19 Supports for Low-Income Households
- Provide immediate financial support to social assistance recipients.
- Provide immediate relief to low-income households to cover the cost of utilities, cellular service and internet.
- Expedite the roll-out of the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit.
- Make the Low-Income Family Tax credit refundable.
- Implement at least 7 permanent paid sick days and an additional 14 paid days during public health emergencies such as COVID-19.
Recommendations to Tackle Poverty in the Longer-Term
- Invest in affordable housing as a pathway to employment.
- Build a stronger foundation to stabilize the lives of social assistance recipients in order to enhance employment outcomes.
- Mitigate the impacts of precarious employment by extending health and dental benefits to low-income Ontarians.
- Enhance workforce participation through investments in affordable childcare.
- Make mental health and addictions a pillar of the poverty reduction strategy.
- Adopt a human-centred design lens to improve system navigation and improve service connectivity.
- Adopt robust poverty reduction targets and indicators to track and report on progress, including measuring food insecurity and employment precarity.
- Maintain provincial funding levels for municipal public health and childcare programs.
We hope to work closely with food banks across Ontario and the provincial government to implement these recommendations in the coming weeks and months.
To read our letter to Premier Ford, click here.
To read our full submission to Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Consultations, click here.