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Reverse the Social Assistance Cuts

March 30, 2012 Poverty Reduction

Recent changes to social assistance announced in the provincial budget will lead to more homelessness in Hamilton and in communities across Ontario.

We’re worried about all of the changes, including the freeze on rates (effectively a rate decrease) but we are particularly concerned about the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) and also the capping of discretionary funding at $10 per case (which has been reported by some commentators).

The Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) is a mandatory benefit provided to recipients. It assists in establishing a new principal residence or to prevent eviction or to prevent the discontinuance of utilities or heating in an existing residence.

CSUMB may also be issued where there is a threat to the health or welfare of a recipient or a member of the benefit unit in a non-start up situation.

The amount of the CSUMB payable is up to a maximum of $1500 for recipients with one or more dependent children in a 24-month period; or up to a maximum of $799 where there are no dependent children in a 24-month period.

Now it is being transferred to the consolidated housing and homelessness program.

So why are we concerned?

First, it is misleading to call it a transfer because the government is only be transferring half of its share of the CSUMB funding.

A second concern is that at this point we don’t know what the program will look like under the Ministry of Housing. We believe, based on the budget, that it will be a limited and lesser amount of funding spread over a greater number of applicants. As mentioned right now the CSUMB is a mandatory benefit which is available to eligible recipients up to a maximum in a 24 month period and there is no cap on funding for this crucial benefit.

The consequences for individuals and families in receipt of provincial social assistance will be dire. We work regularly with clients for whom the CSUMB is crucial in obtaining or retaining their housing, and who would be left homeless if unable to access it.

We are also particularly worried about the cap on discretionary funding to $10 per case (including funding for items such as hearing aids, layettes and baby supplies, air conditioning for people suffering from severe asthma, etc.). We are interested in knowing how the funding cap will function and how this new limit on funding would compare with the last year’s level of discretionary funding from the Province.

It is imperative that the government reverse its recently announced decisions regarding social assistance, including rescinding the decision to remove the CSUMB from social assistance and limit the total funding for this crucial benefit, along with capping the funding for discretionary benefits .

Without this reversal we fear that these changes will have severe adverse effects for the depth of poverty and incidence of homelessness in our community.

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