Budget – 2014
While yesterday’s Ontario budget didn’t contain much for the disability sector we didn’t already know, there are a few areas that confirmed recent conversations, announcements and speculation.
First with respect to the equalization between ODSP and Ontario Works income supports the budget announced a 1% increase to both ODSP and OW, effective Sept 2014. In addition, Ontario Works recipient will receive a further ‘top up’ which will increase their total monthly income by $30 for a single person with no dependents. The combination of the 1% and the top up equals a total increase of 4.8% for these recipients.
A second issue, that has no financial impact from a budget perspective – I.e. will neither require additional revenues nor cut backs – didn’t garner much attention, however should be followed closely. Under the heading ‘Streamlining Employment Benefits’ the government announced the merging of 7 different employment benefits into one, consolidated work related benefit program. These include 3 benefits within ODSP and 4 for Ontario Works. For ODSP, these include the Employment Start Up Benefit (ESUB), Work Related Benefit (WRB – the $100 per month benefit for those who report income) and the Employment Transitions Benefit (ETB). This takes effect Jan 1, 2015 with a 6 month transition for the WRB. Essentially this means the 1% increase to ODSP Income Support will be offset by an approximate 10% loss for those people with disabilities who report income from non-employment sources e.g. sheltered workshops and a $1,200 per year loss to those working who still require some financial support from ODSP. This is of major concern for all those who have become dependent on that income, whether working or not.
The Minister will be working with the General Advisory Council on Social Assistance Reform and other stakeholder groups to determine how to implement this and the details of the 6 month transition period. Fortunately, the Network’s Executive Director, Joe Dale, is a member of the General Advisory Council and will have some input into this process.
The government also announced the continuation of existing initiatives related to employment, including the Partnership Council under the leadership of Dr. Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, and various activities planned within that body – Engaging Employers, Valuing Ability Campaign – a public awareness campaign – and Supporting Compliance with AODA (working with business by providing tools and assistance to help them meet the AODA standards)
The Network is very fortunate to have three representatives of the Champion’s League, along with its Executive Director as part of this 12 person team.
The Developmental Services Budget was released as previously announced without any changes.
Building on the Poverty Reduction Strategy the government announced:
- Increases to Ontario Child Tax Benefit to $1,310. Indexing this to the Ontario Consumer Price Index, starting July, 2015
- Apr, 2014 – Expanding program eligibility to Healthy Smiles Ontario & Health benefits for children in low-income families
- Expanding the Ontario Student Nutrition program from $20 million to $32 million.
Of course, this is all dependent upon the budget being passed and the government remaining in power. The Ontario Disability Employment Network will continue to monitor this and keep you informed as things unfold.
Tags: AODA, funding