Toronto woke to the good news this morning that the Hardship Fund has been reinstated. As we blogged yesterday, City staff had cut the fund – which provides essential medical supports to people who do not receive social assistance, but who have very low or precarious incomes – as of July 1 because a new funding arrangement had not been made with the Province. Today’s news means that the fund will operate until the end of the year.
The challenge now is to ensure that the Hardship Fund receives funding to continue to provide essential medical supports beyond the end of this year. A number of councillors, led by Janet Davis, have taken leadership in protecting the program at the City level, but the fundamental problem is that negotiations for the Province to assume the cost have not progressed.
It is in the Province’s best interests to ensure that the Hardship Fund continues to support the most vulnerable Torontonians, and the supports that it offers should be available to all low income Ontarians. The fund enables people to remain in employment or training even if they have significant health care needs. Cutting this program will lead to people having to leave the workforce, which will increase the social assistance caseload. Moreover, reducing the ability of vulnerable people to maintain good health will increase the number of avoidable emergency room visits, which will have significant cost and health system implications for the Province.
While we are encouraged by today’s news, we urge the City and Province to work urgently together to ensure that this program can continue to provide essential medical supports to ensure the good health vulnerable Torontonians.