This week is dominated by the release of the Federal Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience. The budget extends current emergency support programs as well as what the Federal government calls “generational investments” such as the Canada-wide early learning and child care system.
We list a series of budget analyses from different perspectives that all applaud the government for making important investments but also identify what more needs to be done:
- OMSSA – Municipal Social Services Analysis
- ONPHA – Non-profit Housing Analysis
- Imagine Canada – Charitable Sector Analysis
- CCPA – Policy Alternative Analysis
- CAEH – Homelesness Analysis
Some quick highlights:
- National Child Care: To bring more women into the workforce, the federal government announced $30 billion over 5 years and $8.3 billion a year afterward to create and sustain early learning and child-care programs. Anticipate a 50% reduction in child care costs by the end of 2022, and forecast that the average cost of daycare will be further reduced to $10 a day by 2025/26.
- Old Age Security: seniors 75 years of age or older are getting a one-time taxable grant payment of $500, to arrive in August. The federal government will boost Old Age Security for the same age group by 10% annually, starting in July 2022.
- Federal minimum wage: bring forward legislation to establish a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, rising with inflation. The minimum wage would stay higher in provinces where the hourly rate is already above $15 per hour,
- Sickness benefits: extending the EI sickness benefit from 15 to 26 weeks and continuing to offer COVID-19-prompted caregiving support in the short-term.
- COVID 19 Emergency wage subsidy, rent subsidy and lockdown supports extended to Sept. 25, with plans to start gradually reducing support payments beginning in July. Those subsidies could be further extended to Nov. 20 if pandemic conditions demand it.
- Canada Recovery Benefit aimed at people who aren’t covered by employment insurance (EI), though the $500-a-week support will drop to $300 per week after July 17.
- Housing: an additional $2.5 billion over 7 years including $1.5 billion for the Rapid Housing Initiative, plus expansion of the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund and $315.4 million for the Canada Housing Benefit.
- $600 million over 2 years will be allocated from the Rental Construction Financing Initiative to help convert vacant office and commercial properties into rental housing.
- A national vacant home tax targeted to non-Canadian residents.
- Canada Recovery Hiring Program will provide qualifying employers with up to $1,129 per week for employees hired between June 6, 2021 and November 20, 2021.
- Youth Employment: $371.8 million in new funding for Canada Summer Jobs. The program provides a 100% wage subsidy for youth employed in the nonprofit sector.
- pledges to spend $5.7 billion on youth over the next 5 years to help them access education and find jobs.
- The federal government is extending the 6-month moratorium on all student loan repayments to March 31, 2023, at a cost of $392.7 million in 2022-23.
- Extend the doubling of Canada Student Grants for a further 2 years until the end of July 2023.
- Indigenous people: plans to spend more than $18 billion over the next five years to try to narrow the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and help these communities fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
- $31.5 million over 2 years for the co-development of an action plan with Indigenous partners to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund additional $200 million and a new $100 million investment in the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative.
- These initiatives are important steps toward creating a more equitable nonprofit sector and reflect the important findings of the recent report Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked by Canadian Philanthropy.
- Community Services Recovery Fund: $400 million to support the non-profit and charity sector due to the loss of fundraising; and the essential work of independent, small and medium organizations that serve targeted vulnerable populations.
- Investment Readiness program: extended by another 2 years with a commitment of $50 million.
- Universal Broadband Fund: an additional $1 billion over the next 6 years to accelerate the rollout of broadband projects and increase access to high-speed internet in rural and remote communities.
While there are a lot of positive measures, there is some risk that money promised over multiple years or dependent on provincial negotiations may not become reality. So what are some gaps in the budget – what is missing?
- Basic Income/Pharmacare: the budget did not deliver on universal basic income (UBI) or pharmacare, both of which were key areas of focus at recent federal political policy conventions. However, the government committed to engaging with willing partners on national universal pharmacare, though identified it as an initiative that can be advanced at the provincial and territorial level.
- Affordable Housing: not enoughfunds to meet the rapidly growing need for safe, affordable housing across the country, due to pre-existing affordability challenges that have been compounded by the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on low-income and other marginalized communities.
- Addressing rural and remote housing:according to the National Alliance to End Rural and Remote Homelessness, rural communities make up 30% of Canada’s population but do not have the same access to housing or homelessness funding through Reaching Home and the National Housing Strategy. Budget 2021 does make investments in northern housing, but it’s unclear at this point if new Budget 2021 investments will reach rural and remote communities.
- Indigenous Housing: no dedicated funds to support an Indigenous-led strategy for urban, rural, and northern Indigenous housing to address the disproportionate rates of Indigenous core housing need and poverty, and advance along the path to reconciliation.
- Strengthening Public Health: health and socioeconomic circumstances are always connected, not just in pandemic circumstances.Transformative change for wellbeing and health equity demands a comprehensive vision for improving people’s living conditions and tackling inequities in money and power.
- Sick Leave Benefits: the Provincial government is now considering a Provincial paid sick leave which will fill in ‘gaps’ in the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit. Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has identified paid sick leave as a critical component of the Province’s third wave response, allowing ill front-line workers to isolate themselves if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.
The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force welcomes the positive direction of this Federal Budget 2021 but will continue to advocate for equitable support to our rural communities and most vulnerable populations by advocating for and promoting:
- safe and affordable housing,
- decent work and liveable wages,
- health equities,
- diversity/inclusion of people with lived experience,
- and Indigenous-led strategies and programs.
The Poverty Task Force shall discuss the Federal Budget 2021 on Friday, April 23rd at 10am.
- HAPPY EARTH DAY! The Community Garden Network will be hosting a Healing in the Gardens workshop on April 26th. Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87108727323
- The Good Food Box remains open for the majority of its 18 locations. The following locations are paused for April/May: Wiarton, Meaford, Markdale, Thornbury, Port Elgin and Hanover.
- Community Hot Meal programs are posted daily on 211. They can be accessed at: https://www.informationbrucegrey.ca/ There have been a few closures due to building maintenance, COVID19, etc. but the latest are posted.
- The Wiarton Salvation Army will be closed for 10 days for maintenance work on their building. They will be providing a non-perishable food hamper and perishable items will be available from the Owen Sound Salvation Army. The Tara Food Bank distributed 20 people over the Easter Weekend and are anticipating more people during this lockdown. The Owen Sound Salvation Army is serving some 700 people on a regular basis.
- SUSTAIN Ontario is preparing a report on Grey Bruce and innovative solutions to food security as part of a Best Practice Report. Interviews will be coordinated by our Grey Bruce Community Garden Network Coordinator, Simona Freibergova.
- Community Volunteer Income Tax Program: while many clinics are not operating this year, there are several listed on 211 that will continue to do drop-offs/pickups or via phone/email year round such as the YMCA and South East Grey Community Health Centre. ODSP are seeing many clients who collected CERB when they were ineligible and are fearful of filing their taxes.
- There are several critical reason to file income tax on time
- you must file on time to continue any COVID-related benefits.
- you must file on time to obtain income statements to qualify for programs such as Geared To Income Housing, utility, financial and legal supports; Seniors’ Dental Clinics, etc. Note: GTI Housing clients can contact County Housing, if they have not filed or have difficulty obtaining an income statement.
- you must file on time to obtain child tax benefits and other benefits. Note: OW/ODSP clients can receive Transitional Child Benefits for upto 3 months if they don’t file on time. This can be extended monthly but they will need to manage the refund.
- CVITP partners will often check to ensure clients are also signing up for other support programs like CEAP.
- The Income & Employment Action Group will work on social media messages via videos, etc. to encourage more people to file and provide a Q&A on filing this year.
- Safe ‘N Sound will be hosting a Women’s Life Skills Program every Thursday from 5pm-9pm starting April 22nd for 10 weeks. Topics include Mental and Physical Health. It is free and open to all women.
- Vaccination pop-up clinics: Housing partners have been actively involved in organizing vaccination clinics for congregate settings and those with limited access to phones/internet to access appointments. Staff were able to convince a lot of people at clinics to walk in the door and get vaccinated. There is still a lot of vaccine hesitancy and need for education. The pop-up clinics in locations where people go for services or motel/housing locations have been successful.
- Giiwe Circle will be a panel presenter at the upcoming The End of Poverty national summit held by Tamarack Institute on May 5-6th. The Poverty Task Force still has free seats available for this event.
- The Trillium Foundation announced $531,700 was granted locally under its Resilient Communities Fund.
- Grey County has endorsed a declaration of mutual commitment and friendship with M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre. They are vowing to strengthen their relationship and continue working together on ways to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people living off-reserve in the area.
Stay well, Jill