Apr 05, 2023

By Jane Brown

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The Ford PCs at Queen’s Park are acknowledging the unprecedented demand for food seen at the Daily Bread Food Bank, but they are also defending measures already taken to improve the lives of vulnerable Ontario residents.

Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank, is demanding the Ontario government immediately step up and provide every person on social assistance with an emergency funding top up, like what was done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His ask comes as the number of people using the charity has quadrupled from 65,000 in early 2020 to 270,000 client visits a month.

And Hetherington says the amount of people experiencing food insecurity is also growing at a worrying rate, as about 12,500 new clients come to the Daily Bread’s food banks each month. That figure is six times more than before the start of the pandemic.

“That means that they’re often cobbling together a couple of part time jobs to be able to make ends meet and that means they don’t have medical or dental benefits and they rely on food charity to be able to make ends meet,” Hetherington further explained.

In response, a statement provided to late Tuesday afternoon, the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said in late 2022 the provincial government made the largest social assistance increase in decades by upping the rates for income support by five per cent for families and individuals under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

“Future ODSP rates will also be tied to the rate of inflation, with the first adjustment taking place in July,” a spokesperson wrote.

“We have also provided a 400-percent increase in the earnings exemption which will empower thousands of ODSP recipients with the opportunity to fill the 400,000 open jobs in Ontario.”

The Ministry went on to say that it is also supporting people on Ontario Works by giving them access to extended health benefits “that can help them even if they start a job and no longer qualify for financial assistance.”

“Outside of social assistance, there are also a variety of income-tested benefits available to Ontarians, such as federal and provincial children’s benefits and the Ontario Trillium Benefit (a tax-free payment that helps low-to-moderate-income Ontario residents pay for energy costs, sales and property tax). This is all in addition to the over more than $8.5 billion in social assistance payments we issued in 2021/22,” a spokesperson said.

“We look forward to hearing more about the federal government’s proposed Canada Disability Benefit. On top of Ontario’s extensive programs and supports, this additional program will help increase the level of supports for low-income Ontarians with disabilities.”

Listen for more on this important topic when Neil Hetherington joins Fight Back with guest host Jane Brown at 12:30pm Wednesday.

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