Back in April 2019, Feed Ontario (formerly Ontario Association of Food Banks) released a report forecasting the impact of the Government of Ontario’s proposed reforms to social assistance and put forth three key recommendations for change. While the article offers a province wide history and prediction, the patterns described are directly reflected within the City of Kawartha Lakes.
Kawartha Lakes Food Source distributes food
to 34 member agencies or organizations within our community, which in turn
provide food to 5,500 individuals. Of these individuals, 1/3 is on social
assistance programming and 1/3 is on provincial disability support.
Unfortunately, social assistance rates do
not reflect today’s cost of living, and individuals or families too often do
not have enough income to afford all their necessities, leaving them to make
tough decisions between putting a roof over their heads or having enough to eat
each month. Within Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, and Northumberland County 13.5%
of households are food insecure, 1.6% above the provincial average. While some
of the proposed changes made by the Ontario Government are a step in the right
direction, some are also a cause for concern and may result in worsening food
In November of 2018, the provincial
government announced several changes to Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario
Disability Support Program (ODSP) which were intended to help social assistance
recipients break the cycle of poverty. Significant reforms include an increase
in earning exemptions for both OW and ODSP accompanied by a subsequent 25%
increase in clawbacks on earnings. Additionally, the ODSP definition of
disability is to be aligned with federal guidelines which may lead to the
exclusion of individuals with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease,
arthritis, or other episodic disabilities.
The Kawartha Lakes Food Source stands with
the following recommendations made by Feed Ontario. First, retain the current
definition of ‘disability’ in Ontario. Second, reduce the clawback on earned
income under OW and ODSP from 75% to 50%. Lastly, invest in affordable housing
through construction, repairs, and a portable housing benefit.