More than 130 organizations have signed onto an open letter to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services calling for measures to ensure income security for Ontario’s most vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Income Security and Advocacy Centre (ISAC) recently initiated an open letter to children, community and social services minister Todd Smith, intending to draw the minister’s attention to two immediate needs to support low-income Ontarians:
- Raise the social assistance rates
- Exempt federal benefits from any clawbacks for social assistance recipients
ISAC says raising social assistance rates would lift up many Ontarians affected by the pandemic who do not currently qualify for income support. With a rate increase, individuals and families who may not be eligible for federal emergency benefits could become eligible for social assistance.
Additionally, expanding clawback exemptions to certain federal programs like employment insurance and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit would ensure social assistance recipients who lose their employment can maximize the benefit of the assistance offered by the federal government at this time.
The economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to income insecurity of many in Ontario. ISAC says for people who were already marginalized, such as those living in poverty and those living with disabilities on social assistance, the immediate and long-term impact of this pandemic is far greater. While federal and provincial governments have taken positive steps to provide additional income support during the pandemic, many individuals are still falling through the cracks.
The letter was supported by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division as well as 26 CMHA community branches across the province.