Doug Ford: Reinstate the Covid benefit for all ODSP recipients

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Today, January 12th 2021, Doug Ford announced the second State of Emergency of the pandemic in Ontario, in effect immediately. On Thursday, Ontario will be under a Stay at Home order. These steps are necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19. It is important to note that with these new restrictions comes deeper challenges in already hard struck areas.

Disabled Ontarians were living in deep poverty before the pandemic hit. When the pandemic came, we were put into even more of a squeeze. Delivery costs, Cleaning supplies, PPE, Rising food costs, Private transportation to essential appointments; the list goes on. Though our income (of maximum $1169 per month for a single adult) did not change, our essential costs increased due to the pandemic and the need to remain inside our homes due to being extra susceptible to this virus.

There were many calls for help for ODSP recipients in the first State of Emergency, and Doug Ford's response was a means-tested payment we had to request from our ODSP worker. Meaning the worker decided based on their discretion whether their client should receive the payment - and even how much of the maximum payment they shall receive. These payments were a maximum of $100 per single ODSP recipient, and $200 per family on ODSP. Originally it was a one time payment, but with a push, it got extended to a monthly payment for the next few months. That being said, this payment only ran from April 2020 to July 2020, then it ended completely.  (What's more, the fact that the recipient had to request the payment yourself instead of it being automatic to all ODSP recipients - combined with the fact that there was little to no advertising or notice about this benefit - tens of thousands of ODSP recipients missed out for the mere fact that they were not informed of this Covid payment/requirement.)

Though this payment was small, short, and means-tested; it was a blessing for those who received it. I personally received it and it helped me with my extra costs. It brought my income from $1169 per month to $1269 per month for those 4 months. Then - it ended. Even though the pandemic was still going full speed. The extra costs never went away, but the little financial support I was given to help survive this pandemic did.

Which brings us back to today. There was the second State of Emergency of the pandemic declared, effective immediately. There will be a Stay at Home order implemented this week. Disabled Ontarians are at a high risk of catching the virus and are already stuck in deep poverty, causing them to have to make difficult choices. (Food or Rent? Food or Medicine?) Cases are much higher than they were from April - July of last year when we were getting the payment - by the thousands.

All of these facts point to one thing: we need the ODSP Covid-19 payment to be reinstated.

Not only does it need to be reinstated, we need it to be:

- Automatic. Meaning we need it to go to all ODSP recipients. No means-testing, no requesting need. That way all who need it, get it. I can guarantee you there is not one person on disability supports (& who has proven that they belong on those supports time and time again) who would not need these Covid payments.

- Increased to an amount that brings ODSP closer to the poverty line so that recipients have an actual chance of surviving this without having to panic about our next meal. Bringing our income up to the poverty line for the duration of the pandemic would be ideal. However, we would be grateful for even just a few hundred. (Like an additional $400/ODSP recipient per month.) We are that desperate that we will take any help given, even if its still below the poverty line. We just need it to be offered. (Doug Ford kept that $12 Billion of Covid-19 relief funds for all of those months, so we know this isn't a question of affordability. It's a question of "Does Doug Ford value disabled Ontarians' lives?")

- Retroactive. We need the people who did not receive the past payments to get them. Ontario was very strategic in making some of the most vulnerable ask for this specific payment from their worker, knowing that not all recipients had knowledge of the payments at all. This whole requesting system wasn't fair to those people that missed out on the payments, and they deserve to receive the help that they missed.

But bare minimum, it must be reinstated. May this be a reminder to Doug Ford, and to the public, that disabled Ontarians desperately need direct financial help to weather the pandemic.

Doug Ford, I call on you to reinstate the Covid-19 ODSP payments, make them automatic, and increase them to an amount that will help people manage the pandemic without any worries about tomorrow nights meal.