Poverty activists urge fix for welfare system

Christine Watts was shocked in June when a truck pulled into her yard and threatened to disconnect her hydro.

 

Christine Watts was shocked in June when a truck pulled into her yard and threatened to disconnect her hydro.

 

The 51-year-old Cobourg-area woman, who lives on provincial disability support and a part-time job at a library, had no idea she owed $1,100 from an equal-billing underpayment for the past year.

 

Community agencies and family helped Watts cover all but $240 of the outstanding bill. But she was still short. So her employer agreed to loan her the money and deduct $80 from her monthly earnings of just under $300 for the next three months.

 

But under Ontario’s complicated welfare rules, Watts’ loan is considered income, and every dollar earned by someone on welfare triggers a 50-cent cut in provincial support. It means Watts will lose $120 from her $826 September benefit cheque.


The government’s treatment of loans to people on welfare is among 13 short-term changes a government-appointed panel of poverty experts recommended for quick action in a confidential report last February.


Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur made four of the changes in March. But people like Watts are still waiting for action on the remaining nine

 
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