Raise The Rates
Every month in Ontario, hundreds of thousands of people receive welfare and ODSP cheques that are far too small for them to pay the rent and eat properly.
On Ontario Works or ODSP in the City of Toronto? Do you know about the new Housing Stabilization Fund?Submitted by ocap on Thu, 05/09/2013 - 16:22.
On Ontario Works or ODSP in the City of Toronto? Do you know about the new Housing Stabilization Fund?
**Download the HSF info flyer here and help us distribute in OW and ODSP offices
At the start of 2013, the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) was cut by the Ontario Liberals. This was a vital benefit that thousands of people on OW and ODSP used to secure a place to live, pay first and last months’ rent, stave off eviction, get furniture and household items, pay utilities,. This is just another attack on poor people who depend on social assistance, making it harder and harder to get by.
When the Liberal Government cut the Community Start Up, the City of Toronto created a new fund to replace it, the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). This fund is set to run out by the end of 2013 and you may be eligible for it!
2013-2014 Ontario Provincial Budget Breakdown by OCAP
OCAP had no great expectations that the 'Social Justice Premier's' first Budget would give poor communities in Ontario much reason to celebrate. We are surprised, however, at just how shamelessly she has continued to push people into deeper poverty. Wynne, like McGuinty before her, is obsessed with ‘eliminating the deficit’ at all costs. It is clear from the government’s own figures that corporate greed created this deficit, but the people of Ontario will be expected to pay for it. In the 2013 budget, they boast of reducing corporate taxes by $8.5 billion per year since 2009 and proudly announce that Ontarians now get less per capita funding from their government than people in any other province.
The vital question was whether social assistance rates would be raised in a way that began to repair the incredible loss of real income that has taken place since 1993. The measures taken in this budget leave no room for doubt. The great majority of people on social assistance will get a 1% increase, which is, of course, a cut when you consider the rate of inflation. To put this in real terms, consider that in 2013, landlords can raise rent by 2.5%, but social assistance rates are only going up by 1%. Single people on Ontario Works, whose income has declined by 56% since the 90s, will receive $14 a month over and above this. Their income will increase by perhaps 3%, which means they will pretty well stay where they are against inflation. This comes shockingly below the $100 raise recommendation of their own commission.
RAISE the RATES!
A Raise the Rates Campaign strategy meeting was held in Toronto on
March 16 and one of its decisions was to call for a week of action in
the lead up to the 2013 Provincial Budget which is set to come down
mid-April. We are calling on community organizations and unions to
hold actions at Liberal MPP's offices and events during the week of
April 8 to challenge Liberal austerity and to demand real action on
> No cut to the Special Diet.
> Restore the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit
> No downloading of ODSP or forcing people with disabilities into poverty jobs
> Restore OW and ODSP rates to where they were in 1995 - A 56% increase is needed now
> End the freeze on the minimum wage. Set it at $14 and index it to inflation.
A message from the Raise the Rates Campaign
Once again the Ontario Liberals are playing political games with poor people’s lives. New Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne is trying to make people forget McGuinty’s legacy of brutal cuts by toying with offering small scraps of relief for people on social assistance - an additional $100/month for ‘single employables on Ontario Works’ (individuals on welfare) and the right to keep up to $200/month of income for everyone else. There will be attempts to spin this as a gain for poor people in Ontario, but the Liberals have again failed to meet the demands that poor people have been making for the last decade.
Wynne and the Liberals have seen poor and working people building resistance to Liberal austerity. This past December, we forced $42 million out of the government in money that they had intended to cut as part of the elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit - money that they said did not exist. Our fightback has the Liberals worried and they are betting that these small increases will slow the momentum of this movement. Once again, this government has underestimated poor people in Ontario - we will not accept concessions and we will never back down on our demand to Raise the Rates!
The Raise the Rates Campaign represents a broad and growing consensus amongst community groups, unions and anti-poverty activists about social assistance in this province. Together we reject attempts to divide poor people on assistance between those on Ontario Works and those on Ontario Disability Support Program. We are united in this fight and building alliances with all those living in poverty, people working low-wage precarious jobs, and unionized workers.
1) Reverse the Cuts, Raise the Rates!
In 1995 the Tory government cut welfare rates by 21.6 % and froze disability. Since the Liberals came to power in 2003, they have not only failed to reverse the Harris cuts, but have actually perpetuated a further decline in rates. As a result of that initial 21.6% cut coupled with inflation for the last 16 years, welfare rates are approximately 55% below where they should be. If benefit levels were restored to the same level of spending power as we had in 1994, a single person on Ontario Works would receive an immediate $936/month instead of the miserable $606 now being issued. No one can survive on these poverty rates; $606 cannot afford someone a place to live let alone food and basic needs.
The Liberal government has frozen the minimum wage for last three years. Workers trying to survive on minimum wage are already making poverty wages that continue to lose their spending power as a result of inflation. Currently there are approximately 1 in 6 workers or working at or close to minimum wage in Ontario, and the gap between minimum wage and welfare is greater now than it ever has been.
WE DEMAND an immediate increase in OW and ODSP rates to bring them back to pre- Harris levels. 55% NOW– raise the rates to where people can live with health and dignity!
WE DEMAND the minimum wage freeze be lifted immediately and that minimum wage be increased to $14 for everyone in Ontario.
2) Restore Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and the Special Diet Allowance!
The Liberals have cut two vital benefits that poor people need to survive. The Special Diet put healthy food on the table and the CSUMB kept a roof over people’s heads. We demand that these benefits be restored immediately.
In the 2012 Provincial budget, the Liberal government targeted the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) for elimination by January 2013 and downloaded the responsibility of a housing fund to municipalities. This vital benefit allows people to get housed (first and last months rent, moving costs etc), pay for the basic essentials to set up a home (furniture, pots and pans), or recover from an emergency or crisis (the need to move for ones personal safety, or to pay for lost items due to a fire or bed bugs outbreak).
The Special Diet Allowance has been another vital benefit that has put money in the pockets of communities forced to live in poverty on social assistance rates that are entirely inadequate. The Liberals have been slowly chipping away at the Special Diet Allowance for the past 7 years making it harder and harder for people to qualify. The most recent proposal would see this benefit gone once and for all to ‘offset the cost’ of raising the base level of Ontario Works for singles by $100. The estimated cost of this cut in money would be: $240 million.
The loss of the full Special Diet Allowance and the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit alongside declining social assistance rates will drive communities deeper into poverty, poor health and will increase homelessness.
WE DEMAND the full restoration of the Special Diet to a benefit of up to $250 for food and complete reversal of all intrusive measures AND the full restoration of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit as a provincially run program.
The Movement is growing: Join the Raise the Rates Campaign!
To get involved and to endorse the Raise the Rates Campaign, please visit: www.ocap.ca/rtr
CUPE Ontario Raise the Rates Campaign: www.cupe.on.ca/raisetherates
On Facebook, join the Raise the Rates page: https://www.facebook.com/RaiseTheRates
Or contact us at: Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
157 Carlton St, Unit 206, Toronto, ON M5A 2K3
Twitter: @OCAPtoronto #RaisetheRates
ABOVE, video footage from January 26, march to Allan Gardens
OCAP Statement on the Report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
“Brighter Prospects” is the spin doctored title of the long anticipated report on social assistance prepared for the Liberal Government by Frances Lankin and Munir Sheihk. For some nine years, the Liberals have talked ‘poverty reduction’ while actually making people poorer and the release of this report is the crowning moment of this long process. As the Liberals prepare to intensify their agenda of social cutbacks and attacks on public sector workers, this report offers them three useful forms of assistance.
Firstly, just when their seemingly endless round of ‘consulting stakeholders’ on poverty and social assistance seemed to have run out of credibility, the Government is now handed yet another way to divert attention from the obvious fact that their declarations on alleviating poverty have been a sham. Now, they have yet another ‘bold and innovative blueprint’ that they must study and consider so as to prepare the ‘comprehensive and sweeping’ measures they have been meaning to get around to for nine years.
Secondly, there are some useful tidbits included in the report that offer the illusion that tiny shuffles in the right direction might be possible. There are, for example, recommendations on the amount of assets or earnings people on assistance may receive without having them clawed back. It is proposed that the pursuit of child support by those on assistance should be optional. An advisory group is called for that would look at benefit levels and develop a ‘Basic Measure of Adequacy’. It is suggested that single people on Ontario Works should have their income increased by $100 a month in the interim (although this would be paid for by eliminating the Special Diet and other ‘extras’ as social assistance benefits).
LIBERAL LEGACY OF ATTACKS ON THE POOR:
Of course, there is no reason to suppose that the Liberals are likely to act on the few modest improvements contained in the report. In fact, John Milloy as a response to growing pressure in communities, including in his riding in Kitchener, has already stated that the $100 increase is not an option because ‘the Province cannot afford it’. This year, benefit levels went up by less than the rate of inflation and even this only took place because, as a minority government, they had to abandon a complete rate freeze in order to negotiate the passage of their Budget. This, of course, included brutal cuts for people on social assistance particularly the elimination of the vital Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB). The cut to the CSUMB is perhaps one of the most blatant examples of how dreadful the policies of the Liberal government have been for poor people. It is a benefit that in reality means the difference between housing and homelessness for thousands of people in Ontario. It is often the only way women in poverty are able leave abusive situations and start-up somewhere safer. It is also the only way that people on assistance are able to buy the basic necessities like a bed and pots and pans.
This is a brief report on a small but important victory that we won today.
Last week H., an Ontario Works (OW) recipient, approached us for support in her struggle to access the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB). She had already sent in two written requests to access the CSUMB for a mattress, box-spring and bed-frame that she is entitled to under the regulations and provisions of the CSMUB. She has not accessed the CSUMB in the past two years. These two requests (with estimates), sent in first in the spring and then in early summer, were either ignored or lost by OW (which happens way too often!). When H. called her worker on August 28th to inquire into what had happened to her requests she was told that "singles aren't eligible for beds...unless there are special circumstances."
Today (April 24) OCAP members unfurled a banner in the legislature, demanding an increase to social assistance rates 55%, which is needed just to bring the rates back to what they were before the Mike Harris years...