TORONTO, ON – Torontonians crowded into David Pecaut Square today for a free clinic, meal and rally. The Raise the Rates Campaign held the event to call on governments to restore the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit, and to help people on social assistance access housing resources.
The Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) helped people on social assistance get and retain housing. Since it was eliminated by the province in 2012, people have relied on a patchwork of programs, including Toronto’s Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF).
The province’s decision to cut CSUMB, the most basic of resources, comes on top of abysmal social assistance rates and previous gutting of the Special Diet Allowance,” said Liisa Schofield of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). “This is not a government being a friend to the poor, it is one that has continuously made life harder for people struggling to get by in this province. If Kathleen Wynne cares about social justice, let’s see her raise social assistance rates once and for all and restore vital programs cut under Harris and McGuinty.”
Social assistance rates remain lower than they were prior to the Harris government of the 1990s. More than 600,000 low-income people live in Toronto, and 20 percent of Torontonians live in housing that is too small, needs repairs or is unaffordable, according to city data. Close to 90,000 Toronto households are sitting on a 10-year-long waiting list for community housing.
By the city’s own admission, its Housing Stabilization Fund has been inaccessible to many who need it because the city has failed to tell people how they can receive the benefit, and because the eligibility criteria have been too strict.
In response, the Raise the Rates held a clinic and mass-signup.
“Cuts to public services and programs come with a real cost. The government’s austerity program is increasing poverty, and at the same time they’re cutting the programs that help low-income families,” says Carrie-Lynn Poole-Cotnam, chair of CUPE Ontario’s Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee. “Instead of pulling $150 million from Toronto’s housing budget, the province should be restoring programs like the CSUMB and special diet allowance, raising the minimum wage and taking poverty seriously.”
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