Thousands of welfare recipients in Ontario may have received incorrect monthly cheques last week.
Some people on social assistance in 11 Ontario municipalities may have been inconvenienced by what the province called "a computer processing error" that affected a portion of this month’s Ontario Works payments.
Normally, portions of their Ontario Works subsidy go straight to utilities or rent. But for the month of May, that money is included with their cheques.
About 3,500 vendors, such as utilities or landlords, and 17,400 individuals or families, are affected.
Affected municipalities include Brantford, Cochrane, Kawartha Lakes, London, Niagara, Northumberland, Ottawa, Parry Sound, Peel, Toronto and Windsor.
Bruno Ierullo, who speaks for Windsor's employment and social services department, said he has never seen this happen before.
"This has consumed a lot of time. And what we've done is that we've prepared cheque inserts so that everybody that is in receipt of Ontario Works will receive a notice indicating this particular problem," he said.
Ierullo says the cause of the error is still unknown at this time.
Any Ontario Works recipient with further questions can call their case worker.
According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the error will affect only Ontario Works clients who have made prior arrangements for their municipality to deduct some of their payment in order to pay bills such as utilities or rent.
"The one-time processing error caused the full amount of the Ontario Works payment to go to the social assistance client. As a result, the clients will be personally responsible for paying their affected bills this month," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
The ministry said, "despite the error, all payments are being made on time and no Ontario Works client will be short-changed."
The ministry called it "an unprecedented error" and that it is "unlikely to recur." It's reviewing procedures to ensure proper safeguards.
The Ministry is working with the 11 municipalities to alert both the affected clients and the vendors.