Ontario seeks more applicants for basic income pilot

Ontario is taking the next step in its efforts to find eligible applicants for its basic income pilot project.

Open enrolment sessions kick off on Nov. 29 in Hamilton, Nov. 30 in Thunder Bay and Lindsay

Residents in the communities chosen to pilot Ontario's basic income program no longer have to receive one of these packages in the mail, in order to apply. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

Ontario is taking the next step in its efforts to find eligible applicants for its basic income pilot project. 

The pilot, which was launched in the spring, initially began soliciting applications by inviting specific people to apply through random mail-outs to residents in Thunder Bay, Lindsay and Hamilton. 

The province is now casting the net wider, inviting any eligible people in the pilot communities to apply, and attempting to reach out through a series of open enrolment sessions in Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Brantford and Lindsay.

"As we've moved into the active phase of the pilot, we've slowly been expanding our ways of reaching out to people," said Peter Milczyn, the minister responsible for Ontario's poverty reduction strategy, in an interview with CBC Thunder Bay's Superior Morning

Sessions 'open to everybody'

Dozens of enrolment sessions are scheduled from Nov. 29 - Feb. 1. 

"They're open to everybody in the community," said Milczyn.

As the province continues the application process, the first participants have begun to receive payments. 

One early concern that has been raised is that recipients of basic income will not be be extended the protections from wage garnishment that apply to those who receive other forms of social assistance. Responding to a question about that concern, Milczyn said its important that applicants get all the information. 

"[The basic income program] is not a statutory program, it's not a legislated program, so we can't legally extend that protection to people," said Milczyn. "But what's important is that we explain this to individuals." 

People who enrol in the program are "free to leave the pilot at any time," he added, "and if they're receiving some form of government assistance, we make sure they don't lose anything in that process."

The enrolment sessions kick off in Hamilton on Nov. 29. The first session to be held in Thunder Bay will take place on Nov. 30 from 12 - 6 p.m. at the West Thunder Community Center. 

The province is also inviting people to request applications by phone or email. 

In order to be eligible for the basic income pilot, individuals must be:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 64, for the duration of the three-year study
  • Living in one of the selected communities, and living there for the previous 12 months
  • Living on a low income (under $34,000 per year for a single person, under $48,000 for couples)