Putting a spotlight on poverty

United Way of Bruce Grey and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force wants to put a spotlight on poverty in our community.

Basic needs are increasingly out of reach for people living on low-income, and people with insufficient income face impossible choices every single day. For people living with disabilities, further barriers related to employment, social exclusion, and higher cost of living make it even more difficult to thrive without comprehensive supports.

After the 1.5% rate increase in October 2018, a single person receiving Ontario Works will still be 65% below the poverty line receiving only: $ 732/month.

On average,1 949 households per month access Ontario Works in Grey County and Bruce County in 2018.

July 2018 profiles:

Of the July case load:

  • 1148 clients, or 62% were single,
  • 595 clients, or 31%, were sole supporting parents
  • Balance were dual parent families or couples with no children.

ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) has a caseload of 6855 households in Grey Bruce. A single person on ODSP is 55% below the poverty line receiving $1 151.

Ontario’s low income cut-off puts the poverty line at $2 080 for a single person.

The lonely girl cries in the street

Any increases to Ontario Works caseloads are attributed to positive changes in regulations around income supports such as child support no longer being considered income, increase asset limits which allow people to keep more of their earned income and savings as well as the eligibility requirements for youth 16 and 17 living on their own.

Transitioning people out of poverty and to a life of sustainability requires many supports. Access to transportation, childcare that is affordable and fits the schedule of the jobs available.

We also need to ensure that the right supports are there for the right demographic of people needing supports. With 62% of recipients being singles, we need to ensure there are supports beyond those just focused on children and families.

The United Way of Bruce Grey and the Poverty Task Force look forward to working with the new Provincial government on addressing rural poverty needs.

Microsoft PowerPoint - PTF Election Graphics_4August2018

 

For more information:

Advertisements

Media Release: Help available to file tax returns

February 22, 2018

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and Grey Bruce Health Unit encourage everyone to file a tax return, especially those with low or modest income. Filing a tax return helps identify benefits they can collect and may result in more money back. Getting help with filing tax returns is available throughout Grey Bruce. The Task Force has created a list of Free Income Tax Preparation Assistance services to help people find the service closest to them.

“Many people have no idea they can get money back. They fear being told to pay the government for large back taxes. But this is not the case for most people on low income.” Says Jill Umbach, Coordinator of Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force. “It is important to file this year to take advantage of tax credits to increase your annual income. You don’t have to file your previous taxes first to catch up. Many community tax clinics will help you to file for previous years as well.”

There are good reasons to file:
1. To qualify for programs including the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the GST/HST credit, and the Ontario Trillium Benefit, which all pay cash when you qualify.
2. To take advantage of certain tax credits like the Working Income Tax Benefit.
3. To recover any tax you may have overpaid from your pay cheque.

People on low income may not have access to affordable or relevant tax filing services and may not know about benefits and assistance available to them including targeted approaches suited to their specific needs.

Tax time is a good time to apply for the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP). Those who have not applied to OESP may be missing out on a monthly benefit towards their hydro bill, starting at $35.00 and upwards, based on income. The United Way of Bruce Grey and Grey Bruce Community Income Tax Clinic can assist with an application.

Free tax services are available to people on low income all across Grey Bruce. Call 211 or check online at 211 Information Bruce Grey.

For More Information:

Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator,  Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, 519-377-9406, jill.umbach@gmail.com

Allison Murray, Health Promoter, Grey Bruce Health Unit
519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 ext. 1343
allison.murray@publichealthgreybruce.on.ca

Income Security: A Roadmap for Change

Income Security: A Roadmap for Change Report was released on 2 November 2017.  The government held a public  consultation and they intend to release an “Income Security Strategy for Ontario” early in 2018, using the Roadmap as a guide.  All levels of government including the Federal government are involved in the development of this 10 year plan along with 3 working groups: Income Security Reform Working Group, First Nations Income Security Reform Working Group and Urban Indigenous Table on Income Security Reform.

Why this matters – the problem

The income security system was designed for the workforce of the past, where many people had long-term, well-paying jobs. Today, low-paying, part-time jobs of short duration are much more common. Many people have long-standing barriers to work and social inclusion due to:  intergenerational poverty, history of colonialism, mental health and addition issues.  More people turn to social assistance as a “first resort” despite the limitations of these programs.

Why this matters – the human toll 

Essential needs are increasingly out of reach for many people. It’s harder for people to climb out of poverty. More people have disabilities, are facing barriers to employment, social inclusion and higher costs of living. Poverty and low-income are negatively impacting people’s health and well-being.  Systemic racism and discrimination are contributing to entrenched inequity.

In 2008, it was estimated that poverty costs $32 to $38 billlion-a-year in Ontario. Around $2,300-a-year for every household in Ontario.

Why is this report important? 

This is the first report in 30 years that recommends major investments in and improvements to programs that affect the lives of people on low-income in Ontario. It reflects a fundamentally different approach to supports and services that puts people – and their needs and rights – at the centre of the system, with a recognition that social and economic inclusion, and not just getting a job, should be the goal.

It not only recommends increasing the amount, quality and kind of benefits and services that low-income people receive, but also is transforming the vision for the income security system, the principles behind the provision of programs and services, and changes the goals to a rights-based, equity approach and recognizes the realities of different groups who live in poverty and/or experience poverty.

The Roadmap recommends a new vision:

All individuals are treated with respect and dignity and are inspired and equipped to reach their full potential. People have equitable access to a comprehensive and accountable system of income and in-kind support that provides an adequate level of financial assistance and promotes economic and social inclusion, with particular attention to the needs and experience of Indigenous peoples (pg 69).

To achieve the new vision, the Report recommends changes in 5 key areas:

  • Making a commitment to income adequacy
  • Improving the broader income security system
  • Transforming the social assistance system, including a First Nations-based approach
  • Providing immediate help to those in deepest poverty
  • Respecting First Nations jurisdiction and ensuring adequate funding

The Roadmap reflect years of advocacy for change to Ontario’s income security system.  It is a tool that we can  use to ensure greater investments are made in the Provincial budget. We need to ensure that all candidates in upcoming elections are made aware of the Roadmap and support the transformation of Ontario’s income security system.

At our recent Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force meeting we shared a background summary of the recommendations prepared by the Income Security Advocacy Centre along with the link to a Webinar by Income Security Advocacy Centre .  An Income Security Roadmap Presentation – Nov 17  prepared by Anna Cain, Director of Ontario Works Branch, MCSS highlighted the recommended changes and was the basis along with the full Report of our discussion.

Ontario’s Labour Reform: a Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Update

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force supports employment situations that are fair, secure, safe and provide employees with a Living Wage. These are minimum standards necessary in the elimination of poverty.  We have published a Labour Reform Infographic 2018 that summarizes the recent changes and what it means for us locally.  As changes made to Ontario’s Employment Standards and Labour Relations Act come into place, it is important to reflect how these changes will impact those affected by poverty locally.

30% of employed Ontarians in non-Metro Census Divisions are paid a low wage.  That is a large percentage of people locally who may be paid a low wage and then we have to consider that some of the changes also change precarious work practices.

  • Minimum wage increase to $14/hr effective 1 Jan 2018
  • Minimum wage increase to $15/hr effective 1 Jan 2019
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Updated regulations around shift scheduling
  • 3 hours pay for shifts cut to less than 3 hours or cancelled less than 48 hours in advance
  • 10 emergency leave days, including 2 paid sick days per year
  • Card-based voting for unionization
  • Hiring aditional employment standards officers (for greater enforcement and accountability)

What does this mean? 

  • More than 1 million of Ontario’s lowest wage employees received a big raise, the most signficant in almost 50 years.
  • Flexibility and stability through advance notice of scheduling and paid sick time will be afforded to all workers.
  • Quality of life, in the form of health and family outcomes, improves with higher income and decreased employment precarity.
  • Keeping money local. When the lowest wage workers earn extra income, they are able to spend money on necessities within their own communities. They are able to buy more and better groceries, warm clothes for their children and keep up with bills.

What’s the downside? 

We have heard from people with low-incomes, as well as from service providers that work closely with marginalized populations that they are concerned about possible negative impacts. They are anticipating lay-offs, increases in ‘under the table’ hiring, and fewer jobs overall.  Some employers have already reduced hours, raised prices or eliminated other non-mandated perks previously offered to employees.

While those for, against, and ambivalent to these changes can all cite evidence that supports their perspective, the Poverty Task Force is of the view that these changes will be beneficial overall. We also believe it will be important to measure actual outcomes closely.  We shall continue to monitor the impacts locally and will always advocate with and for lower income, precarious workers.