We started this year, finalizing a baseline for collective action of partners at the Poverty Task Force table. One that would be more impactful on poverty reduction in Grey County and Bruce County. And then a pandemic hit. Below is a bit of a timeline of strategic poverty related reports throughout the year.
- In February 2020, we completed our Poverty Task Force baseline 2020 IMPACT Report. This baseline and targets were written prior to the pandemic, but they are intended to have a longer term impact.
- While we had planned to carry out a series of workshops to complete a Shared Measurement Framework for 2020, this activity has been pushed to 2021.
- In April 2020, Campaign 2000 summarized many key recommendations in their Make Child and Family Poverty History: a vision for Ontario’s Next Poverty Reduction Strategy. This report was also written prior to the pandemic, but the recommendations within are intended to help people in low income in the long term.
- Since March 2020, the Poverty Task Force and the United Way of Bruce Grey have released 38 Community Updates with reports on our local, provincial and national response to the pandemic.
- Most recently, the 2020 Pandemic Report The Strength in our Numbers which collected data from a wide range of partners.
- Almost $3.5 Million has gone out in our communities, almost half has gone into food and food-related issues, shelter 2nd highest area with almost 5,000 nights of shelter.
- In Dec, 2020, Campaign 2000 released its 2020 National Report Card Beyond the Pandemic: Rising Up for a Canada Free of Poverty
- Nearly 1 in 5 children lived in poverty (1,337,570 or 18.2%) in Canada in 2018.
- The national child poverty rate declined by less than half a percentage point between 2017 to 2018, from 18.6% to 18.2%, representing 19,410 children fewer in poverty.
- The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) had a significant impact on child poverty rates the year it was implemented, but this lack of progress suggests that benefits were front-ended and short lived. In 2018, the CCB protected 662,080 from falling into poverty.
- 1.2 million children were food insecure in 2017-2018, representing the highest number recorded since food insecurity monitoring began in Canada. The CCB has been shown to reduce severe food insecurity in families.
- Well-designed government transfers can reduce poverty. In 2018, total government transfers reduced the child poverty rate from 33.1% to 18.2%, reflecting a difference of 1,084,910 fewer children living in poverty. But transfers alone are not enough.
- Canada must aim to reduce poverty by 50% according to the CFLIM-AT calculated by taxfiler data by the year 2025 and must ensure the same rate of reduction for marginalized communities where prevalence is higher.
- Pandemic recovery is dependent on the creation of a well-resourced, publicly funded universal childcare system, eliminating fee subsidy systems that create barriers to access for low-income families.
- Access to adequate housing is key to maintaining public health. Substantial new investments are needed that meet the needs of diverse communities, and that fulfill the federal government’s human rights obligations and gender-based plus (GBA+) commitments of the National Housing Strategy.
- Now is the time to implement universal pharmacare with new legislation and an initial investment of a $3.5 billion annual pharmacare transfer to the provinces and territories with the condition of providing universal public coverage of essential medicines, with a shift to full pharmacare over 5 years.
- Economic fallout from the pandemic has affected already vulnerable workers and shone a light on abysmally poor labour standards. Canada must immediately implement $15/hr minimum wage; legislate paid sick days; lengthen the duration and improve access to emergency measures; strengthen the Employment Equity Act and attach Community Benefit Agreements; and reform Employment Insurance over the longer-term.
- On 16 Dec 2020, the Ontario government released its new Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy Building a Strong Foundation for Success: Reducing Poverty in Ontario. Some of the key pillars are:
- Encouraging job creation and connecting people to employment – making investments in education, employment services, and training programs so people can get the skills and experience they need.
- Connecting people with the right supports and services – improving access to supports that address health and well-being and enabling access to education, training, and employment, leading to increased community participation. Working on a Community Housing Renewal Strategy, redesign Child Welfare and create more child care spaces.
- Making life more affordable and building financial resiliency – reducing the cost of living, increasing tax benefits/credits, utility supports and payday loan protection.
- Accelerating action and driving progress – using evidence and working across sectors to support economic recovery and developing integrated solutions that better connect the province’s health, social, and economic systems.
- Achieving Indigenous Prosperity and Well-Being – focused on economic development, healing and well-being, Supportive Housing, foundation of Indigneous Women’s Council that will respond to human trafficking, child/youth and family health and respond to the Final Repot of the National Inquiry into Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
We do not know what poverty in Ontario will look like when this outbreak ends, but we can be certain that it will intensify for the most vulnerable. It is important to continue to meet the basic needs for the most vulnerable but continue to create awareness and advocate for change.
- COVID-19 Benefit Repayments The Government of Canada is asking those who received COVID-19 related benefits in error to voluntarily repay those COVID-19 benefits in full by December 31st, 2020. The deadline is “to prevent errors in tax returns and when calculating any benefits or credits they may be entitled to.”
- Canada Child Benefit, Trillium Benefit, GST/HST Credit, Guaranteed Income Supplement are some benefits that depend on tax filing each year.
- For Canadians living on low incomes, the government is offering more time and flexibility in how and when the benefits in error are repaid by the recipient.
- The government is not currently considering an amnesty, but “are looking to find ways to minimize the impact.”
- Change in Electricity Prices for households and small businesses: Effective January 1, 2021, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has lowered electricity prices.
- The Ontario government will also decrease the Ontario Electricity Rebate from 33.2$ to 21.2% effective January 1, 2021. This means typically, residential customer bills will stay stable.
- Community Meal Programs, Food Banks and other organizations are extremely busy with distributing food hampers, meals, gift cards and toys for this holiday season. Over 113,000 meals have been provided by 10 Community Meal Programs across Grey Bruce. The data collected on www.brucegreyfood.com indicates that meals have plateaued due to maxed out capacity and the need remains larger.
- Many meal programs will be open through the holidays and food banks will be offering emergency assistance. Meals to motels shall continue to be provided to people taking shelter. And many individual organizations and schools are sharing food, clothing and toys to their respective communities. Please contact 211 for holidays hours and service.
- Christmas Assistance and Dinners that are currently listed on 211 are divided by County. Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Grey and Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Bruce
- The province announced that Grey County would receive an additional $433,900 from the Social Services Relief Fund, bringing its total to more than $3.5 million since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And Bruce County will receive an additional $167,600. The funding will go towards supportive housing.
- COVID-19 Rental and Utilities Relief Funds are available in Grey and Bruce Counties.
- A new Out of the Cold Shelter has opened for the winter in Goderich for Huron County.
- A new emergency shelter has opened on Saugeen First Nation to address an ongoing need in the community.
- A new Housing and Justice Report by the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee has outlined how supportive housing in Ontario could more effectively meet the needs of justice involved individuals and reduce strain on the health and justice systems.
- Fight4Freedom is delivering a two-part online training for youth in Grey-Bruce on January 11th and 18th, 2021. The first part of training will focus on human trafficking and online safety. The second part will focus on boundaries, consent and healthy relationships. If interested, registration is required. Register at https://bit.ly/TeenTrainingRegistration
- In January 2021, Sheatre has invited youth aged 14-25 to join a digital studio for artists to work and play with theatre, music, and dance. They have partnered with local and mobile studios. The cost is free for registered participants and the deadline to register is January 9th 2021. Contact Kit Boulter (they/them) at email@example.com to connect.
- Home and Community Support Services (HCSS) and it’s transportation service is open for booking requests for medical rides both local and long distance, rides to grocery shopping, pharmacy, hair dressing, etc., They do have some limitations but the schedulers can solve those as they come up with the clients. On-line bookings can also be made by going to their webpage www.hcssgreybruce.com or call 519-370-0558.
Stay well, Jill