City agrees to maintain funding to help those on social assistance
City covers shortfall of $350,000 to help those on Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support
Greater Sudbury's 2018 budget will be increased by $350,000 to absorb the cost of helping people living on social assistance.
The city's discretionary benefits fund helps those living on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support programs. People can apply for money to help pay for things like hearing aid batteries, moving costs or new appliances.
"It's just a little funding that we can provide to assist them with the cost, but not the total cost," says councillor René Lapierre.
"Their budgets are so tight right now... if they apply for the grant, we can provide them with some assistance, and it'll help them grow and increase their living standards."
Province pays capped amount, city pays remainder
Currently the province pays to fund about 97 per cent of this municipal program. However next year that support will be capped, leaving the city with a shortfall of about $350,000.
The city's annual budget for this program is $1.2 million. However, city documents show that actual costs have ranged from $1.4 to $1.6 million since 2014.
To maintain the same level of service in Sudbury, the city's community services committee decided to make room for the extra cost in next year's budget.
"By helping them somewhat, I think we're doing a good job in our municipality to help our residents to try and live healthy," Lapierre says.
"When we can provide a little bit of assistance, it goes a long way."
Need to update benefits list
According to city staff, the increase won't have an impact on the tax levy. By uploading the cost to the province, the city has been able to save money. But now, since that money will be used, it puts pressure on future finances. However this does not affect the amount citizens will pay.
The list of benefits is outdated. City staff will review the list to see where the city can still save a few dollars.
"The amount of usage that's there shows that we do need to provide assistance," says Lapierre.
"There are a few items I think should be on health care, but that's a provincial issue, not us. So we have to provide that help somehow."
City staff will consult council in the future if they want to make any major changes to the list of benefits.