Defend disability


This year’s Ontario provincial budget once again leaves people living with disabilities in Ontario behind. Ontario’s 2024 “Building a Better Ontario” budget offers nothing new for people who rely on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) and continues to widen the gap between OW and ODSP benefit rates.

Studies show that 28% of OW clients are people in poor health, many of whom likely should be on ODSP, but face barriers to access. By leaving over 100,000 disabled Ontarians on less robust supports, the Province is saving $687 million. No wonder they persist in keeping those OW clients off ODSP.

Meanwhile, caseloads have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, savings that could be used for rate increases for OW recipients at no additional cost to the government, or efforts to ensure access to ODSP. Indeed, the Province certainly saved untold millions by clawing back federal pandemic benefits from recipients who accessed them.

“This government targeted $1 billion in cuts from social assistance when they first came in and are now achieving that goal by starving people who rely on it, many of them with disabilities. It’s deplorable,” says concerned advocate/activist Andrea Hatala, member of Defend Disability.

OW rates have not been raised since 2018, and inflation since then is 20%. If OW had been adjusted to inflation since 2018, the single benefit rate would be around $155 higher at $878 a month and the earnings exemptions would be at least $260 a month.

Budget 2024 proposes nothing for OW earnings exemption or benefit rate increases, even though ODSP exemptions and rates have increased and are now tied to annual inflation. Earning exemptions are the amount clients are allowed to earn before experiencing clawback which traps them in deep poverty. As it stands now, the rate gap between OW and ODSP is now almost 80%. People receiving Ontario Works get 80% more when they are able to move to ODSP. Both programs still leave recipients well below the poverty line.

“This government has tabled yet another budget that leaves Ontario’s most vulnerable people in deep poverty, unable to even afford the basics to survive. These folks should be a higher priority than highways or helicopters,” said Sean Meagher, a member of Defend Disability.



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