Province making it more difficult to help London’s most vulnerable
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Supporting some of the most vulnerable in the community is being made more difficult by a provincial decision to eliminate funding to one support program while reducing support for another.
During the Community Services Committee meeting on Monday (Oct. 22), members heard from Lynne Livingstone, managing director community services/neighbourhood and children services, who explained the province is eliminating the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) that is currently provided to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program clients. CSUMB funding is to end on Dec. 31.
In addition, Livingstone said the province is cutting by 50 per cent the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative funding allocation.
“The allocation is approximately $1 million shy of what were expecting,” Livingstone said. “The province did not allocate our 50 per cent back to us. If they did, we would be in better shape.”
The committee voted to support Livingstone’s suggestion that the city approach the province about reconsidering the elimination of CSUMB and linking to the CHPI program. If they are not prepared to do that, the committee is recommending the city “respectfully request” an extension of the CSUMB benefit until Dec. 31, 2013 to allow municipalities adequate time to plan.
Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser asked Livingstone for clarification around how the CSUMB funding was used by recipients. Orser pointed out how last year, 2,500 to 3,000 people received $799 in CSUMB if they were single, and if they had dependents, up to $1,500.
Livingstone said the most frequent reason sited by participants for the use of the CSUMB benefit was “paying last month’s rent.” The next two reasons were paying utility arrears and purchasing household items. And although some of the CSUMB funding can be made up, Livingstone said that the entire total couldn’t.
“That is where I believe if we get no traction and we are stuck with the elimination of CSUMB, there is some opportunity through the CHPI program to address the last month’s rent, utility arrears,” Livingstone said. “The part we won’t be able to address is the furniture, clothing, pots and pans, those kinds of things.”
Jacqueline Thompson, from LifeSpin, and Mike Laliberte, from Neighbourhood Legal Services, appeared before the committee to ask for council’s support in fighting these funding decisions. Short of that, the pair also suggested the city should look trying to fill at least part of that funding grab with its own financial support during budget deliberations.
Whether or not that happens, several members of the committee said the elimination of CSUMB, combined with the 50 per cent allocation reduction, were matters that had to be addressed quickly.
Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong said the decision leaves the city “shortchanged.” He also pointed out that while work at Queen’s Park has been halted by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to prorogue the legislature, a new government could change the decision down the road.
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