By Isabella Gamk
The COVID-19 crisis means that more people than ever are relying on support from the government to help pay rent, and keep food on the table.
But most people in Ontario who receive social assistance aren’t eligible for the new $2000 a month Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) — they’re expected to get by on as little as $650 a month.
I founded POOF (Protecting ODSP OW Funding) two years ago, long before COVID-19. But the pandemic is showing the disparity in how disabled and/or poor people are treated here in Canada.
Which is one of the reasons why I launched this petition to immediately increase the amount received by people depending on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW). Please take a moment to sign it.
The Shelter Allowance for rent for those on ODSP is $497 per month and their Basic Needs Allowance is $672 per month. The maximum you can receive on ODSP is $1,169. Couples receive more but get less per person.
The Shelter Allowance for rent for those on OW is $390 per month and their Basic Needs Allowance is $340 per month. Again, couples get more but get less than if they were receiving it individually.
The reason this petition is important for me personally is because I have been struggling to make ends meet for a few years now and I have been going into debt steadily in order to survive.
I have many many health issues. One of these issues, (long term HIV), has led to severe IBS which forces me to have to use a special diet. I am gluten free, lactose free and on the Fodmap diet to try to control my severe IBS. It does help somewhat but I also have acid reflux and some things on the Fodmap diet that I should be able to have I can’t because of the acid reflux.
I am underweight and have been trying to gain weight on purpose for many years now without success because I have to juggle money to make ends sort of meet. But they never meet lately and my credit card bill has been steadily increasing. I don’t want to have debt and would prefer to be able to pay it off and still be able to live.
I never planned to get sick and disabled and I worked for over 20 years before getting sick and going on disability assistance.
I have had a medical cannabis card to possess and use medical cannabis, but medical cannabis is not covered nor is it cheap and this adds to the problem along with all the other medical supplies and medications I have to purchase out of my Basic Needs Allowance because they are not covered by the ODSP MSN form.
The stress of struggling continuously adds to my IBS causing me lots of pain, cramping and discomfort.
I used to write poetry and create art but I found I could no longer do these things because the stress took over.
This bothered me so much that I founded POOF Protecting ODSP OW Funding two years ago to fight back with protests and rallies. POOF Protecting ODSP OW Funding has been asking for what’s on this petition since day one of it’s existence and so far we have been ignored.
I am hoping this petition makes a serious difference so I can go back to creating instead of having to protest.
Sincerely, Isabella Gamk