Hamilton council will temporarily cover social assistance programs
Hamilton councillors have voted to temporarily fund two programs that offer low-income residents help with services such as funerals, dental care, low-cost transit passes and getting and keeping a home.
Members of the general issues committee voted Wednesday to use money from reserves to bridge a $3.4-million shortfall to the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and the discretionary benefits program.
The money will fund the program for six months until council can revisit it during the 2013 budget process.
Provincial cuts to the programs, which serve people on social assistance or with low incomes, create a combined shortfall of $7.6 million per year.
Coun. Judi Partridge introduced a motion to provide one-time municipal funding to maintain the programs' current levels for half a year. It passed unanimously.
The money will come from various places in the city budget, including the Community Services department surplus, corporate surplus, tax stabilization reserve, Social Services Initiative research, and the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund.
The current decision will not impact the city's tax levy. However, covering the $7.6 million for a year would mean a 1 per cent tax increase.
The Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit included helping people in danger of homelessness with first and last month's rent and catching up on their utilities.
The discretionary benefits program includes funeral services, orthotics, dental care and low-cost transit passes.
Six people presented in favour of continuing to fund the programs, including Laura Cattari from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, Erika Morton from the Street Youth Planning Collaborative and Katherine Kalinowski from the Women's Housing Planning Collaborative.
"I could offer you mountains of data about the benefits (of these programs), but in the end, it's getting cold outside," Kalinowski said.