Sudbury Coalition against Poverty's Memo to Bartolucci: Stop the Cut to the to the Community Start-Up Fund
"We are his constituents," said the thirty people who crowded into Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci's office on April 19th. "He should be representing us."
They came to demand that he speak out against the proposed cuts to the provincial Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB). Sudbury Police, summoned by his office staff, waited outside his office while the group read personal statements about how the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefits have helped Sudburians. A copy of the group statement as well as the personal statements were faxed to Rick Bartolucci's Toronto office before the group left.
The Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit is currently available for those on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program. People with children can qualify for up to $1,500 every two years. For those without children the maximum is $799 every two years. The proposed budget cuts the amount of funding in half and the program is to be transferred to the Ministry of Housing. There it would be folded into the money given to municipalities to run housing and homelessness programs. That means that half the money might be available to try to assist a much larger number of people. How it would be administered, who would be able to access it or what happens when the funding runs out remains unclear. What was made clear by the group in the MPP's office was that CSUMB as currently set up has been a life saver.
One of the personal statements read to Mr. Bartolucci's office staff told how the CSUMB program helped a mother escape from an abusive relationship. Another recounted trying to put back together a life after hospitalization during which rent and bills fell two months behind and an eviction notice was served. Yet another told of needing to replace a refrigerator so that the couple with limited mobility could keep healthy food in the house. The stories told of needing to buy essentials like pots, mattresses and blankets. As one supporter wrote: "these are not luxury items but basic essentials. And typically, the total funding amount ever given could buy one bargain-basement bed, without box spring, without a frame." Another personal statement concluded with: "My family should not have to choose between food and other necessities, and I am afraid that this cut to the start-up allowance will force that choice on us and others in similar circumstances.
The gathering was organized by the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, a direct-action anti-poverty organization. Their mandate states: " We provide direct-action support and work in assisting individuals in their struggles with welfare and ODSP, housing, employers, and others who deny people what they are entitled to. In addition, the group campaigns against regressive government policies as they affect working people and people living in poverty. The Sudbury Coalition against Poverty believes in the power of people to organize themselves and the power of resistance.