In 2008, the Ontario government committed to reduce child poverty by 25 percent in 5 years. 2013 marks the final year in the province’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, and while some progress has been made, there is a long way to go to meet our target. A new campaign – Earn More, Keep More, Restore – from the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction is calling on the government to table a budget that will achieve Ontario’s poverty reduction target.
25 in 5 is calling on the government to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour as a way of ensuring that paid employment is a way out of poverty. Ontario’s minimum wage has been frozen at $10.25 an hour since February 2010.
The campaign also calls for the earnings exemption for people receiving social assistance to be raised to $200 per month. This was recommended by the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. It was also identified as a priority in this week’s Throne Speech by the government.
Currently, sole parents have their child support payments fully deducted from their social assistance payments. This makes it hard for these families to make it through the month. 25 in 5 is asking the government to change its child support rules so that sole parents are able to keep at least half of every child support dollar that they are entitled to receive.
There is also a call for changes to asset rules for people receiving social assistance. Currently, people are required to exhaust almost all of their assets before they are eligible to receive social assistance, which makes it hard to get back on your feet. 25 in 5 is asking the government to increase the amount of assets people are allowed to have to qualify for social assistance.
The Province originally committed to raise the maximum Ontario Child Benefit to $1,310 by July 2013 but delayed this commitment in its 2012 budget. 25 in 5 is calling for the increase scheduled for July 2013 to go ahead.
There is also a call for the government to implement the immediate $100 per month increase to Ontario Works rates for single people that was recommended by the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. This increase is an important first step in ensuring the adequacy of social assistance rates, but must not by funded by cuts to the Special Diet Allowance.
Finally, 25 in 5 asks for the government to commit to contributing permanent, annualized funding to municipalities tasked with providing housing stabilization support to their residents in response to the elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit in the 2012 budget.