These Ontario Disability Support Recipients Say They’re Finding It Harder As Prices Soar

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Some Thunder Bay residents who live on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments say they rely on food banks and feeding programs, and sell belongings to cover expenses while the cost of goods and services is skyrocketing.

ODSP recipients who spoke to CBC News described difficulties in affording food, toiletries, cleaning supplies and health care.

“I accessed the [food bank] and then also drop by the Dew Drop Inn from time to time for that extra help,” Kai Crites said in reference to a Thunder Bay emergency food provider and a local free lunch provider.

“In the past, I usually didn’t need to access things like Dew Drop Inn.”

Across Ontario, more than 500,000 people rely on ODSP for some or all of their income. There are 6,011 in the district of Thunder Bay and 1,243 in the district of Kenora further west, according to statistics provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

Singles on ODSP receive a maximum of $1,169 per month for housing and basic needs, which works out to $14,028 per year. That’s about 30% below the province’s poverty line, which is about $20,000.

Here are some statistics on the cost of living in Thunder Bay, according to the latest data available:

“I can’t afford a watermelon this summer”

Prices have soared in recent months, with the consumer price index (CPI) rising 7.7% between May 2021 and May 2022, according to Statistics Canada.

In June, Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to increase monthly ODSP checks by 5%, but Crites and others say that’s not enough.

“Five percent on about $1,000 is only $50 in reality,” Crites said.

“Fifty dollars, if you’re trying to buy fruits, vegetables, meat…all those essentials, that’s not enough money, especially when you see a $15 watermelon, you know? I don’t can’t afford a watermelon this summer.”

Crites, who identifies himself as them, said they get by by switching to cheaper cuts of meat at the grocery store – chicken thighs as opposed to boneless, skinless chicken – and foregoing “luxuries” like their Microsoft Office subscription.

They also had to forgo orthotics because they couldn’t afford them, which resulted in minor but unnecessary foot surgery.

Now they worry about being able to afford their mobile phone and data plan, which they say is essential to help them live independently.

“My phone has things like a built-in magnifier, and it has the ability for me to read print through special apps,” Crites said. “Even accessing GPS – as a visually impaired person, I find GPS has been very helpful for my independence. But it requires data.”

The province has yet to update its assistive devices program, which helps pay for needed equipment for people with disabilities, to include new technologies and to recognize cell phones as assistive devices, they said. declared.

Tessa Soderberg says the Ontario Disability Support Program is not paying enough to cover food and veterinary care for her guide dog. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Tessa Soderberg, who is visually impaired, said ODSP’s additional allowance for service animals does not cover the full cost of food for her guide dog, which requires a high-protein mix that costs her more $100 per bag.

“Every time you turn around, the price of food goes up and the size of the bag goes down,” Soderberg said.

Soderberg, like Crites, is finding it increasingly difficult to afford healthy foods.

She said she often scoured the discount section of grocery stores for fresh fruits and vegetables, hoping nothing would go bad before she could eat them.

Soderberg grows some of her own vegetables in the summer and said the government could help people like her by waiving the tax on seeds and bedding plants.

“They’re not taxing groceries — a lot of groceries — but they’re taxing what’s going to become groceries, which doesn’t make sense.”

For Alyssa Kirk, who lives with limited mobility, paying for food isn’t as much of a concern as she lives in a facility that provides meals.

Alyssa Kirk says she had to sell goods to cover her monthly expenses. (Submitted by Alyssa Kirk)

But the monthly rent leaves her $71 for other essentials like shampoo, dish soap, garbage bags and medications that aren’t covered by ODSP.

“Toilet paper is so expensive,” she said. “Sometimes all I can afford is a box of Kleenex.”

A year ago, Kirk said, she could afford the necessities and sometimes had money left over for a can of coffee.

Now she dilute products like dish soap to make them last; uses her grocery bags as garbage bags and keeps change in a jar to pay for medicine.

“It’s still a struggle every day. And there’s never really a day where I’m able to sit back and relax and not worry about an upcoming payout.”

Kirk said she recently sold her cell phone, Google Home Mini, Xbox, DVDs and other items on Facebook Marketplace to pay for necessities.

Federal disability benefit involves consultation

People with disabilities and their advocates have expressed the need to update monthly payments, with people across Ontario reporting living below the poverty line.

CBC News asked the province what steps it intended to take to meet the basic needs of people with disabilities — such as food, shelter, medicine and other essentials — but did not receive a direct response.

At the federal level, CBC News has asked Employment and Social Development Canada for plans for its proposed Canadian Disability Benefit (CDB), which will be established under legislation tabled June 2.

In a statement, the department said: “Details of the benefit, including the amount of the benefit and eligibility criteria, will be informed by further dialogue with persons with disabilities and provinces and territories.”

The government, he said, last year committed $11.9 million over three years to consult on eligibility processes for federal disability programs and benefits.

“Consultations with the disability community and other stakeholders, such as academics and researchers, are ongoing and will inform the CDB directly,” the statement said.

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