Thursday, October 20, 2011
Dear Mayor Ford and Toronto City Council,
We urge Toronto City Council to safeguard the City’s Hardship Fund – a fund that offsets medical costs for some of the poorest residents in Toronto. In the City’s own words, the Hardship Fund “serves primarily poor seniors who face potentially life threatening situations if they cannot obtain needed medical items.” The fund is particularly important for many senior women and people with disabilities who live in poverty and who, because of their age or source of income, do not have access to supports available through Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.
Our organizations work to promote the quality of life of Torontonians – like the many seniors, women, people with disabilities, and others who rely on the Hardship Fund. We were very dismayed to learn that, at its September 26/27 meeting, City Council voted 22-23 against a motion that would have spared the Hardship Fund from elimination in the 2012 budget. Instead, Council recommended that the City Manager consider the elimination of the Hardship Fund as part of the City’s 2012 budget.
The Hardship Fund is a critical support for the poorest in our city. The fund was established in 1999 to help people living in poverty and ineligible for provincial income support to cover the costs of prescription drugs, medically necessary items such as prosthetics, dental care and dentures, eyeglasses and funeral costs. It helps people take care of health care emergencies before they worsen, preventing an even greater cost to our health care and social service systems.
In 2010, the City of Toronto’s Employment and Social Services division assisted 1,300 low income people with disabilities and older Toronto residents with emergency medical needs through the Hardship Fund at a cost of $900,000. The Hardship Fund accounts for a small fraction (0.025%) of the City’s budget from property taxes ($0.0009 of $3.534 billion budget in 2010). For the average property taxpayer, the Hardship Fund amounts to about 60 cents on a property tax bill of $2,401.76 (2010 City budget). We believe that most Torontonians would be willing to pay 60 cents so that those of us who suffer serious misfortune have somewhere to turn.
Eliminating the Hardship Fund will have little effect on the City’s bottom line, but will endanger the health and well-being of some 1,300 Toronto residents who struggle daily with the basics.
At present, Toronto City Council is on a path toward the elimination and erosion of many vital public services. If permitted, these actions will undermine the human rights and jeopardize the quality of life of Toronto residents, particularly those most marginalized in our society. During its 2012 budget deliberations, we urge Toronto City Council to safeguard the Hardship Fund, and to step back from its path of damaging service cuts that threaten all Toronto communities.
Signed by (organizations):
CMHA Toronto (Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto Branch)
Central Neighbourhood House
Family Service Toronto
Findhelp Information Services
Older Women’s Network
SPRINT (Senior Peoples’ Resources in North Toronto Inc.)
Social Planning Toronto
Toronto Council on Aging
Toronto Women’s City Alliance