Sudbury

Disabled population left out of emergency funding, advocate says

A Sudbury woman who advocates for people with disabilities says more financial support is needed for that community. Nadine Law, with Access2All, says people with disabilities have largely been forgotten in conversations around the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nadine Law of Sudbury says those on fixed incomes from ODSP finding money tight during COVID-19 pandemic

Nadine Law, with the advocacy group Access2All, says those with disabilities have been forgotten about by governments working to help Canadians financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

A Sudbury advocate believes people with disabilities have been forgotten during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nadine Law, co-founder of the group Access2All, says people with disabilities have largely been forgotten in conversations around the effects of the virus, particularly in emergency government funding.

She says she was disappointed when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced funding for the United Way last month, that he said was meant to help the vulnerable population — youth, seniors and those experiencing homelessness.

The funding did not make mention of people with disabilities.

"That didn't sit well with the disability community as many are among the most vulnerable," Law said.

"When he went on to say that the federal government was going to give $9 million in funding to the United Way to support programs to deliver groceries, meds, and necessities to seniors — I think that's fantastic," she said.

"But what about the rest of the vulnerable population?"

Limited income, extra costs

Law explains that even people who continue to receive the same fixed income are feeling the strain of the current situation.

"Most people when there's a limited income, any money spent hurts," she said.

"So to have to pay for delivery fees. That costs. They can't go out and be independent and do their own shopping, so they're going to have to rely on these delivery services and pay for it."

Law also noted that stores offering delivery service are often more expensive.

She wants to see further government funding for those who rely on fixed payments from Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

Currently, the Ontario government has provided a one-time payment of $100 to those who rely on ODSP and Ontario Works.

The money is for personal protective equipment, food and groceries, cleaning supplies or other items. 

"As you can see, that $100 is not going to get you anywhere," Law said. 

"This is costing everyone, including those on Ontario Works and ODSP, just as much, and being already vulnerable they're facing even more barriers."

Both Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre (left) and Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré (seen in this photo from July 2019) say the federal government is working to help people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Matthew Pierce/CBC)

Concerns voiced to politicians

Law reached out to a number of politicians to voice her concerns including Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre and Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré.

Both say they've brought her concerns forward to the Liberal caucus, and agree there is more that can be done to support people with disabilities. 

Over the past few weeks, the federal government has worked to roll out general funding programs to help Canadians during this pandemic.

But Lefebvre says other 'unique needs' and measures will be announced shortly for individuals who aren't covered within the previously announced emergency funding.

"Their concerns have been voiced in the meetings and calls I've been on with the government, and we're looking at measures and help that can be put in place," Lefebvre said.

"Now we can start to look at other measures of people who have fallen through the cracks, that these whole general programs are not fully addressing their needs," he said.

Lefebvre says he was also disappointed that people with disabilities weren't mentioned as part of the vulnerable population that would be assisted through the United Way funding.

Highlighting the need for better responses

Serré says the programs announced to date will help many people with disabilities. He is also advocating for additional funding for the United Way —  to support local groups.

"It's important that we continue to make sure that all levels of government, that we keep our vulnerable population, low-income families, seniors, First Nations and people with disability in the forefront," Serré said.

"So yes, we have to do better and this pandemic is highlighting the need for us to ensure that we have better health responses to all people, including people with disabilities, moving forward."

With files from Sarah MacMillan

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