Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Municipal Official Supports OCAP

A July 22 press release issued by a municipal government official in south-central Ontario begins: "Perth County -- Perth's Medical Officer of Health is joining with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty in a call for higher rates for people on social assistance." [hyperlinks added]

Municipal officials across the province are aware that social assistance rates are inadequate, of course. Or, at least, they should be. They are required by the province to keep tabs on local food prices by calculating the cost of a basic nutritious food basket each year, and many of them also keep an eye on local average market rents. Add those two together, compare them to social assistance rates, and it is obvious that the payments are too low. The last numbers that I saw for Hamilton, Ontario, showed that this basic "food + housing" total was in fact more than single individuals received from social assistance in a month, and for other family types the amount received beyond the basic "food + housing" total was obviously completely inadequate to cover transportation, medical necessities, personal hygeine products, clothing, utilities, and all the other bits and pieces that we all need. And it is easier to skimp on food than it is to avoid paying rent.

Generally speaking, municipal officials know this, but usually it is expressed in docile bureaucratese if it is mentioned publically at all. So a hearty thumbs up to Dr. Rosana Pellizzari for calling it like it is in a public, visible way that doesn't shy away from solidarity with struggles on the ground. And while she doesn't go so far as to support the current OCAP tactic of setting up clinics to help large numbers of people receive the dietary supplement allowed under welfare rules, the press release acknowledges that such an approach is understandable -- it is "an act of desperation for people in need." But the press release affirms that inadequate welfare rates contribute to food insecurity, and food insecurity leads to poor health.

So raise the rates!

(Discovered via an email update from the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice.)

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