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