City councillors have agreed to move $250,000 from the Ottawa’s daycare budget to fill a gap left from provincial funding cuts to disability programs.
In a community and protective services committee meeting earlier this month, councillors decided to shift city dollars around to partially cover emergency services for people with disabilities.
Overall, the province has cut $7 million in funding to Ottawa. City council found about $5 million in the 2013 budget to cover this gap, $250,000 of which will now come from the daycare budget, leaving a shortfall of about $2 million.
The daycare budget goes towards child-care programs and 15 municipal daycare centres across the city. There are almost 5,000 families in Ottawa benefitting from the subsidies.
For the city’s 2013 budget, staff recommended moving dollars from an area of the daycare budget that usually goes towards building repairs into a one year transition fund, which will help cover the social services gap.
This transition fund is “to address extreme hardship for any individual in need,” Aaron Burry, the city’s general manager of community and social services, wrote in an email.
“Staff did not think all the money in that account was going to be used this year, there weren’t requests in for that money,” says Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes. “So they felt those $250,000 that could be taken out of that capital account for one year, and put over in the operating account for special assistance for people.”
Holmes stresses the city would not take money out of the daycare services operating budget and that the changes won't affect families who depend on the services.
All of this comes as the Ontario government pulls back on municipal funding for social services in efforts to reduce the province’s $13-billion deficit.
Over the past few months, the province capped funds for discretionary benefits, such as dental care and prosthetics, for people on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
Queen’s Park is cutting $7 billion from those types of services. The province is also eliminating the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit, a housing related support for people on ODSP, which will come into effect Jan. 1.
Holmes says that when provinces cut municipal funding, even in tough economic times when it might seem necessary, this puts cities in a difficult position. They either have to cover the cost themselves, or make do without.
It becomes even more difficult when cuts affect “people who are the most vulnerable,” she says.
“Governments find themselves . . . trying to prevent a recession, because the world economy is not doing well,” Holmes says. “So in order to solve that problem of having spent a lot of money on infrastructure, governments are cutting back and in this case cutting back on the backs of the poor.”