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: February 1, 2018 | Filed under: Blog, Government, News — Tags: 2018, Daily Bread, Daily Bread Food Bank, inclusionary zoning, ontario, ontario ministry of municipal affairs, zoning — Adam Paralovos @ 11:13 am
Daily Bread Food Bank submitted our feedback (below) about proposed inclusionary zoning legislation. Today is the deadline for public feedback. Send your responses today to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs regarding EBR Registry posting number 013-1977:
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 welcome the opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations under the Planning Act related to inclusionary zoning, posted on the Environmental Registry.
The legislation introduced in 2016 that would permit municipalities to enact Inclusionary Zoning by-laws was a promising development that would potentially enable cities like Toronto to have another policy tool at their disposal to help address our current crisis of housing affordability.
Unfortunately, the current regulations as proposed are unlikely to help create more affordable rental housing, and the needs of low income households – the group buckling the most under the pressure of shelter costs – are not addressed.
Last year alone there were over 990,000 visits to Daily Bread’s member agencies and to North York Harvest food banks. Food banks in the former inner suburbs are bursting at the seams, seeing a nearly 70 per cent increase in client demand since 2008 – an increase that can be directly attributed to skyrocketing rents. As Daily Bread’s research shows, those accessing food banks spend on average 70 per cent of their income on rent, and many report skipping meals to afford TTC fare in order to get to jobs or doctors’ appointments.
We urge the province to adjust these regulations so that they enable the development of more rental properties in order to help address the housing crisis in our city. It is not an unreasonable goal that people – regardless of their level of income – should be able to afford to rent a decent home near to where they work, go to school, and access essential goods and services.
We also urge the province to enable municipalities to have the flexibility to designate the maximum level of affordable units (maximum caps) depending on need of various communities, in addition to setting minimum caps so as to adequately disperse the supply across the province.
When it comes to increasing the availability of affordable housing, there is no silver bullet. Indeed, properly crafted Inclusionary Zoning needs to be an essential part of a range of policy tools that can help address the escalating housing crisis in the City of Toronto.
Making the aforementioned adjustments can further demonstrate the Province’s commitment to improving not only the lives of the most vulnerable but also the growing number of middle-income earners who are being squeezed out of both the rental and home ownership markets in Toronto.
Done right, Inclusionary Zoning will help ensure cities like Toronto remain resilient, accessible, and inclusive for everyone regardless of income.
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: 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.