Cuts to Sudbury's discretionary benefits budget mean less money for funerals but better access to dental care
Discretionary benefits budget tops up what province pays for services for people on social assistance
People in the City of Greater Sudbury who depend on social assistance to get by are going to see a cut in funeral rate reimbursements and denture replacements. But another change will make it easier to access dental care.
In its 2020 budget, city council voted to reduce its discretionary benefits budget by $175,000.
The discretionary benefits budget is used to top up what the province provides for certain services.
Staff have recommended that the city provide less money for funerals and burial services to people on social assistance.
The current amount for funerals and burials is capped at $6,607.17. The proposed amount is $3,800. That is a decrease of $2,807.17.
According to a review of other municipalities' policies, Greater Sudbury has the highest reimbursement rates for funeral coverage. Average reimbursements ranged from $2,034 to $5,804.67.
Other municipalities' policies have been linked more closely to the Canada Pension Plan death benefit of $2,500 and the Ontario Works Directives Guidelines of $2,250 as benchmarks for funeral rates.
"We're not cutting funeral services right out," said councillor René Lapierre. "This is not our discussion . . . just so everybody's on the same page that it's a reduction in money, but it's not a reduction in service," he explained.
One other recommended change involves the replacement of dentures. People will be reimbursed every six years instead of four.
Councillor Geoff McCausland said the most important recommendation was to update dental fee reimbursement from the current 2009 rates to 2020 rates.
Ontario Works currently reimburses costs based on the 2009 Dental Fee Guide for services at a dentist's office.
"In terms of access to dental care, ensuring that we're covering the costs that represent the current reality is critical," said McCausland.
With files from Angela Gemmill