Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 111

Dear Colleagues, 

It feels like the Grinch is affecting this year’s holiday celebrations with housing/ rental prices rising along with food and other basic needs. Economists are predicting a recession that will continue to impact vulnerable families and our local partners are gearing up to provide emergency support throughout the holiday season.  

  • Rentals.ca reports the average rent in October across Canada was $1,976, across all types of properties, from bachelor apartments to three-bedrooms. That’s an increase of 11.9%, higher than Canada’s inflation rate of 6.9%.
  • Atlantic Canada has seen rents rise at 32.2% and Ontario at 17.7% in the past year. 
  • For most tenants covered by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), there’s a maximum amount the landlord can increase the rent by each year. The rent increase guideline for 2023 is 2.5%. Read more on the CLEO: Steps to Justice website to learn the guidelines, understand the exceptions and how a landlord has approval to raise it more. 

Statistic Canada has released its latest income inequality data of how well tax filers did in 2020. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives‘ report analysis of this data stated “the pandemic’s economic crisis affected Canadians very differently depending on their income level. The lower the income, the harder the hit—and conversely, the higher the income, the softer the landing.” 

  • The bottom 50% of tax filers saw their market income (income before taxes and government transfers) drop by 14%, due to the substantial job losses, most heavily among minimum wage workers
  • However, thanks to pandemic income supports, such as CERB, the bottom 50% of tax filers saw a 20% increase in their total income and the bottom 90% of tax filers—the vast majority of Canadians—saw an 9% increase in total income. 

Feed Ontario Hunger Report 2022 has found that that there more people are visiting in 2022 over 2021:  

  • 20% increase in food banks usage is 20% in 2022 over 2021 
  • 56% increase over the monthly average leading up to the pandemic
  • 64% increase of first-time use of food banks compared to 2021.
  • 47% increase in people with employment accessing food banks since 2018.  

Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act

Bill 23 was passed on November 28th, with many organizations and municipalities expressing great concerns that it was introduced without full consultation. A recent Maytree article challenges the government and readers to think differently about the problem to lead us to different solutions. 

“Defining this as a crisis of affordable housing and homelessness, rather than simply a crisis of supply, will clarify our goals: who we need to target most urgently (people living in poverty), what their needs are (long-term, affordable, and adequate housing), and who is responsible for delivering (all levels of government).” 

Organizations continue to submit feedback to the government: 

  • The Poverty Task Force published a Bill 23 response blog post and carried out media interviews
  • The Ontario United WaysTower Renewal Partnership, and Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership submitted feedback to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on municipal rental replacement by-laws under the Municipal Act, 2001 and City of Toronto Act, 2006. 
  • The Association of Municipalities of Ontario submitted feedback on proposed amendments to the Greenbelt Act to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  
  • The government is still accepting public feedback on its proposed amendments to the Greenbelt Act. 

FOOD SUPPORTS

  • Christmas Food Hampers, Meals and Supports: 211 is the best way to call and go to: https://www.informationbrucegrey.ca/ 
  • Good Food Box: prices will increase in January 2023 to $22/box, but the United Way has received funding to keep the current $20/box price for customers through the winter season. Expect to see a price increase in the Spring. 
  • Farmer Wellness Initiative: Ontario farmers and their families can access free counselling sessions. Accessible 24 hrs, 7 days/week, 365 days/year, in English & French, farmers can call 1-866-267-6255 to speak to a counsellor. www.farmerwellnessinitiative.ca
  • Food for Fines: all Bruce County and many Grey County libraries including Owen Sound are allowing people to bring in non-perishable food items and receive dollars to put towards your fines. The program runs until December 11th, for every non-perishable food item you donate, you will receive $5 put towards your fines.  
  • West Grey Library: has done away with all fines but is still supporting the food banks by offering a Gift Wrapping Station with proceeds to the food bank today. 
  • Safe N Sound: Laundry services are closed while renovations are underway. Clothing is still available along with other supports. 
  • SOS Mobile Outreach Services and Clinics shall run throughout the holidays.  

MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIONS SUPPORT

  • M’Wikwedong IFC – Renaissance Outpatient Treatment Program: starts Mon, Dec 12th, M-Thurs 12-2:30 for 12 weeks. Registration starts in-person on Monday. Contact Dave Lewis, M’Wikedong IFC Addictions Counsellor, iaaw@mwikwedong.com, 519-371-1147 ext 236.
  • Grey Bruce Health Services Wellness & Treatment Centre Community Education Drop-in Session: will take place at TheXchange (825 2nd Ave. E., Owen Sound) on Dec 15th, 4 -7pm. Questions about the session can be sent to communityquestions@gbhs.on.ca.
  • Grey Bruce Crisis Support Program: The Province has announced one-time funding of $500,000 to Grey Bruce Health Services to help expand its Crisis Support Program in 2022-2023. This funding will help sustain and enhance capacity in mental health and addictions services and supports, specifically within the mental health, addictions, eating disorders, complex mental illness sectors.

COMMUNITY WELL-BEING

  • National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was marked on December 6th with vigils throughout Grey and Bruce Counties.  Between November 26, 2021 and November 2022, 34 femicides have been reported in Ontario. Making up less than 5% of Canada’s population, Indigenous women make up 16% of femicide victims.Human Rights Day will be marked on December 10th. 
  • Community Voices: changing the narrative regarding vulnerable populations is a letter to the editor written by Jacob Morris-Wheeler.
  • Owen Sound Police Services Board, in collaboration with the Owen Sound Police Service, is carrying out a survey on community perceptions of crime, neighbourhood concerns, and satisfaction with police services and public safety in the City of Owen Sound. Survey closes on 31 December 2022. 

YOUTH SUPPORTS

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grey Bruce in partnership with Arran Elderslie Youth Council and Trinity Theatre launched the Grey Bruce Youth Council. Monthly groups will be taking place every last Wednesday of the month.  To learn more email tianna.krampien@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca or call 519.376.4449
  • The Well Community Collective held a stakeholder workshop at Keystone on Nov 29th, 2022 to discuss and promote Youth Wellness Hubs. They seek to collaborate, co-design and partner with youth and communities to create equitable, accessible and low-barrier youth wellness services in Bruce, Grey, Huron and Perth counties. 
  • Integrated Youth Services Network of Networks: the Federal government and health partners announced up to $18 million for a Canada wide Integrated Youth Services Network of Networks (IYS-Net) and the development of a Integrated Youth Services National Data Framework and Infrastructure. 

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Reaching Home Rural and Remote Funding: United Way Simcoe Muskoka has announced that the 2023-2024 call for proposals is now open. Visit their website to learn more. Application deadline is Jan 18th, 2023 at 5:00pm.
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation Community Needs Grants: is now accepting proposals to support gender justice work, with a focus on small grassroots organizations. Visit their website to learn more. Application deadline is Jan 26th, 2023, 5pm. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #110

Dear Colleagues, 

On November 24th, 1989, all federally represented parties voted unanimously in the House of Commons to end child poverty by the year 2000. The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) has been a main tool for the government to reduce poverty rates.

A recent Parliamentary Budget Office report shows that approximately 791,000 families will have their payments reduced by an average $606 in the 2022/2023 benefit year as a result of having received pandemic benefits such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). Those families to be hardest hit are led by single Mothers with moderate earned incomes of $33,000 and multiple children. 

The Government of Canada has repaid full clawed back amounts from the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to low-income seniors and protected future GIS payments with legislative changes. Campaign 2000 has initiated a petition and letter writing campaign to the government asking for amnesty on clawbacks to low income families and to protect future CCB payments.  Learn more here

Maytree released the 2021 Welfare in Canada report. This annual report breaks down the welfare incomes available to 4 types of households that qualify for social assistance in each province and territory. The Ontario breakdown is found here

LIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN

NEW FUNDING STREAM

  • Community Services Recovery Fund is a new federal grant ($400 mill) to support charities and non-profits for pandemic recovery. The United Way of Bruce Grey, Community Foundation Grey Bruce and the Red Cross are managing the grant application process.  
  • Visit www.communityservicesrecoveryfund.ca to learn more about how to apply to the Community Services Recovery Fund. The Fund will accept applications from Jan 6, 2023 until Feb 21, 2023. 

INCOME SUPPORT

  • The Ontario government has announced new income supports in the Fall 2022 Economic Statement:
    • Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) the monthly earnings exemption will increase from $200 to $1,000 per month. Each dollar earned above that amount would reduce benefits by 25 cents. This is in addition to a 5% increase in monthly payments to ODSP recipients (about $1,227/month).  Core allowances under the ODSP will be adjusted to inflation annually, beginning in July 2023.
    • Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities program will be adjusted to the maximum monthly amount and annually to inflation, beginning in July 2023.
    • Gas Tax and Fuel Tax Rates the rate of tax on gasoline and fuel (diesel) will remain at 9/litre until Dec 31, 2023.
    • Guaranteed Annual Income System payment will be doubled for all recipients for 12 months starting January 2023, a maximum increase of almost $1,000 per person in 2023. 
  • Utility Support: The federal government has announced a grant program ($250 mill) to help  low and medium income households convert from oil furnaces to electric heat pumps in 2023.  Eligible homeowners will be able to combine the new grant with existing federal and provincial programs that assist with home heating up to $5,000. 
  • Climate Action Incentive payments will increase in the spring 2023. 

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Habitat for Humanity Canada has released the results of a new national survey revealing Canadians’ attitudes towards the affordable housing crisis in Canada and sheds light on the growing barriers to housing and homeownership. 
  • Bill 23 – Habitat for Humanity spoke to the Bill benefiting non-profit housing providers to deliver more affordable homes and more quickly. And with some thoughtful modifications it can be improved to be an even better platform for subsequent action on housing. Read more here.
  • Bill 23 – Association of Municipalities of Ontario spoke to changes to infrastructure financing that would shift costs from developers to municipalities, strip municipalities of the tools required to manage growth and create serious risks to the environment and human health at a time when the impacts of climate change are evident and urgent. Read more here
  • Home Takeover Pilot : the Grey Bruce Health Unit released its initial findings, education materials and website page
  • On the Way Home: is a series of podcasts that brings together voices and issues involved in ending homelessness. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force Response to Bill 23 More Homes Built Faster Act

Dear Colleagues, 

On October 25th, the government introduced Bill 23 which according to Minister Clark is intended to contribute to the province’s plan to build 1.5 million homes by 2031. The broad range of initiatives rolled into the bill include tax incentives and measures to deregulate and streamline development and planning processes. 

A number of serious concerns with Bill 23 have been identified including: 

  • that the Bill gives the Minister the power to cancel rental housing protection programs that ensure that when apartment buildings are redeveloped, the affordable units are replaced at affordable prices; 
  • it proposes to cap the number of affordable units municipalities can request to be built as part of new developments at 5%; 
  • it proposes to set a limit to how long these units can be rented out at below-market rents of 25 years;
  • that the Bill lacks specific initiatives to incentivize the construction of affordable rental housing, and in particular “deeply affordable” rental housing; 
  • that the Bill does not commit the Ontario government to any direct investment in the creation of deeply affordable public and non-profit housing; 
  • the Bill will override the Planning Act of Ontario with impunity and no right to appeal by municipalities or citizens;
  • the Bill will decrease the preservation of and access to greenspace;
  • by reducing affordable rental housing, decreasing preservation of and access to greenspace, and changing policies related to land use planning, the built environment, and climate-resiliency, Bill 23 impacts disportionately on people affected by poverty and socio-economic marginalization.   

Taking Action

More Local Action 

  • Grey County Planning Department submitted its concerns to the Province and the associated consultations posted on the Environmental Registry and Ontario Regulatory Registry. Read the full report here.
  • Grey Bruce Climate Action Network members have been working with local councils and staff in recent years to build resilience to climate impacts. They have written about the need for a “complete community” that protects “its wetlands and natural areas to reduce flooding, improve biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emission through energy efficiency, high density mixed housing and easy access to services. 
  • Beaver Valley Community Group: sought to speak with MPP Rick Byers at his office during a protest

Other Action

  • Canadian Environmental Law Associationurges the provincial government in their submission to pause the passage of Bill 23 to allow full consideration of all the public input and advice that is received. 
  • Consultation opportunities: There are multiple ways to comment directly on changes to legislation and regulations via Bill 23 — for example, the Planning Act, A Place to Grow and the Provincial Policy Statement are all facing changes proposed in Bill 23. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has created a helpful list of all the dates for the numerous consultation deadlines in November and December 2022. 

Vital Conversation on Housing in Grey Bruce

Stay well, Jill 

Media Release: Bruce Grey’s Living Wage increases by 12.5% for 2022 to $20.70 per hour

The living wage is what a worker needs to earn, per hour, at 40 hours per week, in order to make ends meet where they live.

The United Way of Bruce Grey began issuing a living wage report in 2014 using a single income family profile. To add their voice to the provincial Ontario Living Wage Call for Action, the United Way reconfigured their data to align with the provincial representative framework. The framework was developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

How is the Living Wage calculated?

Major expenses that workers face such as shelter costs, transportation, childcare, and food are in the calculation. Also taken into account are other expenses such as internet access, a modest annual vacation, and clothing. Any applicable government taxes, transfers, and benefits are factored in as well. The result is an hourly wage that a worker must earn in order to make ends meet where they live.

For Bruce Grey, 3 demographic profiles were used to generate the standardized Living Wage for Bruce Grey:

  • Single person: $19.12
  • Single parent with 2 children: $24.74
  • 2 parents, 2 children: $21 .05 for both parents

“The most significant driver for the increase has been the cost of housing for people. The United Way did this calculation in the summer, utilizing data prior to the recent inflationary issues for food and other consumable costs” explains Executive Director Francesca Dobbyn. “This is the bottom, this is the barely making a budget work Living Wage.”

The budget does not include funds for:

  • Savings
  • Education savings for the children
  • Home-ownership costs
  • Costs to take care of a family member
  • Pets
  • Social engagements
  • Debt repayments

“The demand for emergency food rose sharply during the pandemic.  However, community meal programs and food banks are reporting on FoodBruceGrey.com they are still seeing high numbers and new faces.” Jill Umbach, Coordinator, Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force confirms. “Despite the long history of food banks in Grey Bruce, household food insecurity has persisted at high rates.”

Recent studies have found that about 1 in 6 people in Ontario live in a household experiencing food insecurity (Proof 2021) and about 1 in 5 Canadian children live in a food-insecure household. The recent Grey Bruce Nutritious Food Basket Survey revealed that for low-income households in Grey-Bruce, current income levels are not adequate to pay for basic living costs, including food and housing. 

The United Way of Bruce Grey and The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force advocate for a move from relying on a food charity model to income solutions that increase the incomes of vulnerable households in our community.

“A job should lift the employee out of poverty,” Dobbyn explains further. “With the significant increases to the cost of housing we see locally, people are working, yet sliding further and further into poverty.” While no one should live below the poverty line, there is an understanding and an expectation that being employed full-time should lift that person, and their family, out of poverty.

Benefits to businesses who pay a Living Wage include:

  • Reduced recruitment costs
  • Reduced training costs
  • Better morale
  • Employees do not have to hold down multiple jobs just to make ends meet
  • Less fatigue
  • Increased productivity
  • There are over 500 certified living wage employers in Ontario

For more information on the Living Wage report please contact Francesca Dobbyn at 519-376-1560 or execdir@unitedwaybg.com

For more information on Living Wage Ontario, please contact Anne Coleman, Campaign Manager Manager@ontariolivingwage.ca, Ontario Living Wage Network