…and no one even noticed.
The provincial Liberal government is currently in deficit-slaying mode, which as I have written about elsewhere, is a good idea. However, as the Drummond Report highlighted, we need to be careful about eliminating deficits to ensure that this is actually done in such a manner as to decrease inequality rather than increasing it.
The initial proposal to freeze social assistance rates was a bad sign. Fortunately the NDP were able to negotiate a 1% increase, but the message was clear, the poor were going to feel the cuts along with those employed in the public sector.
Sure enough another cut has come, and it has happened so quietly that most haven’t noticed. The cut comes through a process of reorganizing services for people experiencing homelessness. Five programs (Consolidated Homelessness Prevention Program, Emergency Energy Fund, Emergency Hostel Services, Domiciliary Hostel Program, and the Provincial Rent Bank) have been rolled together into the new Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative or CHPI (chip-ee). As well, and most importantly, the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (or CSUMB) has been eliminated, and 50% of the cost of this program ($62.6m) will be added to CHPI.
What does all that mean? It means that across Ontario municipalities will have $62,000,000 less in order to address homelessness. Secondly, the elimination of CSUMB, used most often to pay last month’s rent in order to re-house people, means more people will be stuck in shelter solely for financial reasons.
If this is a concern to you, I encourage you to write to your local MPP and let them know that although eliminating the deficit is a good idea, it should not happen on the backs of the poor. Check out this briefing note for more info.