Open Letter to Minister Smith re: COVID Support for OW/ODSP

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“Dear Minister Smith,

I am writing on behalf of the thousands of Ontarians who receive social assistance through the Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

Earlier this spring in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services provided emergency funds of up to $100 for individuals and up to $200 for families to those receiving OW and ODSP. While I believe that these should have been universally applied instead of initially only being made available by the discretion of case workers, these funds are critical for those who rely on them.

While this benefit is set to end at the end of the month, the financial hardship experienced by many, especially those on social assistance, has not subsided. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic imposes increased costs for those on social assistance, and revoking this benefit would have serious impacts on my residents in Scarborough-Guildwood.

I have heard repeatedly, that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit(CERB) puts more money immediately in the pockets of out of work Canadians than those dependent on OW and ODSP where people struggle with adequacy to make ends meet. Ontarians with disabilities are expected to live far below the poverty line, while other Canadians have been treated far more generously.

I implore you to make these funds automatic, retroactive and universally available to OW and ODSP recipients. Furthermore, as we are still in the midst of the pandemic with the potential for a second wave, extend the emergency top-up through the rest of the year, and reverse your government’s cuts to the planned increases for those on social assistance. I also request that you make the data on how many recipients have received the emergency top-up transparent and publically available, so that it is clear how many individuals and families are benefitting from this measure.

Now more than ever, Ontario’s government should not be making desperately needed financial supports more difficult for some of our society’s most vulnerable populations to access.

I would be available to discuss this request with you further at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Mitzie Hunter

MPP Scarborough-Guildwood”