OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 11, 2012) - The McGuinty government's proposed elimination of the Community Start Up benefit would make poverty worse in Ontario just as an all-party commission on social assistance is set to release its report, anti-poverty activists and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario said today at an Ottawa Town Hall meeting.
''Cutting the Community Start Up would have a devastating effect on those wishing to move from the shelter system into housing, for those needing to leave domestic abuse situations and for those in transition periods," said Pierre Beaulieu-Blais of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)-Ottawa. "This move will undeniably have extremely negative impacts on recipients of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients, not to mention on shelters and agencies."
Over 16,000 people use the Community Start Up every month in Ontario. It is one of the only ways that people on assistance can cover the costs of moving, save their housing and obtain the basic items they need to maintain a home. It helps prevent homelessness and increases safety for many women and children, making its elimination a particularly cruel development, said Monika Thakker of OCAP-Ottawa.
"In periods of austerity there should be more options for those in need of financial assistance, not less," said Thakker. "This cut is misguided and unjust and should be fought by everyone who has a stake in the anti-austerity and anti-poverty movements in Ontario."
The proposed cut to the Community Start-Up comes on the heels of previous cuts to the Special Diet Allowance and on top of years of grossly inadequate social assistance rates, making the McGuinty Liberals responsible for growing levels of poverty in Ontario, said Lisa Schofield of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).
"McGuinty's austerity agenda means cuts to Ontario's poorest, but tax breaks for rich corporations," Schofield said. "These cuts are not just numbers on paper. More people will become homeless. More lives will be shortened. More low-income women and children will be at risk of violence. These are the consequences of the McGuinty brand of austerity."
"Communities across Ontario are on high alert as the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario prepares to release its report next week," said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee. "Everyone will be watching to see if the report addresses the elephant in the room - woefully inadequate social assistance rates that keep Ontarians scrambling to survive."
The Liberal government's 2012 budget brought a number of regressive cuts to social assistance, including the Community Start Up, slated for elimination in 2013. The Town Hall is part of a provincial movement to stop the cut.