Ontario budget 2013 should boost child benefit to help poor kids
TheStar.com – news/gta – Single moms urge Queen Queen’s Park to keep its promise to raise child benefit in spring budget.
Apr 22 2013. By: Laurie Monsebraaten, Social justice reporter
Toronto single mom Mariyah Pilon wants the Wynne government to keep its promise to kids in this spring’s provincial budget.
Specifically, she says it must make good on its pledge to raise the annual Ontario child benefit from $1,100 to $1,310 this year, as planned in the province’s poverty-reduction strategy.
The deficit-plagued Liberals froze the benefit in last year’s austerity budget and pushed the promised increase to 2014.
The increase would boost monthly benefits for parents like Pilon from $92 to $110 per child.
“For some people, it’s just pocket change, but for us, it is food in the fridge, diapers, baby cream,” says the 20-year-old mother of Liam, 2½, and newborn Adriel.
With the birth of Adriel last month, her monthly income will increase to about $2,000 in welfare, child and tax benefits, which is roughly $8,500 a year below the province’s poverty line for a family of three.
Pilon has been struggling to work part-time to boost her income. But she hopes the college program in medical esthetics that she begins in May will lead to a career that will help her escape welfare for good.
“They should try walking in our shoes,” she says, cuddling Adriel at Jessie’s, the June Callwood Centre for Young Women. “It’s no life.”
Ontario’s child benefit is the cornerstone of the province’s 2008 plan to cut child poverty by 25 per cent in five years and lift 90,000 children out of poverty.
So far, the benefit has helped to pull 40,000 children above the province’s low income limit. But advocates worry that without the promised increase, the government will miss its 2013 target.
“Increasing family income will allow (the government) to meet the target and raising the Ontario child benefit has proven to be an effective way to do that,” says Anita Khanna of Ontario Campaign 2000, a provincial coalition dedicated to fighting child poverty.
Advocates say they are heartened by the Wynne government’s commitment to social justice.
“We have certainly noticed a different tone,” says Jennefer Laidley of the Income Security Advocacy Centre, which supports people on social assistance. “But ultimately, the budget is where the rubber will meet the road with this new government.”
The 25-in-5 Network for Social Justice, a coalition that lobbied the government for the poverty reduction target, is looking for budget measures to:
Raise the hourly minimum wage to $11.50 from $10.25, where it has been frozen for three years.
Invest in affordable child care so people can work.
Allow everyone on welfare to earn $200 before clawbacks begin.
Increase the assets people can keep before becoming eligible for welfare.
End the 100-per-cent clawback of child-support payments for single parents on welfare and let them keep half of what they receive.
Increase welfare for single people on Ontario Works by $100 a month as a down-payment on welfare reform and raise other welfare rates by inflation.
Annualize a one-time grant to municipalities that helps people on welfare pay first- and last-month rent and buy furniture and other household items.
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