After some confusion by staff, the City of Toronto’s hardship fund is safe for now.
Earlier this week it was reported staff had killed the more than $1-million fund, despite a decision by councillors during the last budget debate to keep it going. Following a letter written by Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis and signed by 15 councillors, the fund has been revived.
“They have reviewed the decision and between now and the next council meeting they’ll be maintaining the status quo,” Davis said Friday, July 27.
The fund is used to assist low income residents with medical expenses.
“The hardship fund provides medical supports to low income individuals for things like medical devices, prosthetics, wheelchairs, exceptional prescription drugs and other kinds of medical supports,” Davis said.
There were 1,500 people receiving support from the fund - individuals not on social assistance so they were unable to receive support from that avenue.
The fund was first identified to be cut during the KPMG service review, but councillors voted to keep it.
During the 2012 budget process there was a motion recommending it be funded for half the year (to the tune of $588,000) and that the city approach the province to take over the responsibility. That motion was amended by executive committee to say if the city wasn’t successful with the province it would fund the money from the operating budget to continue the fund.
“I don’t think there was any ambiguity, but staff interpreted it as funding it for half the year and winding the project down,” Davis said. “That was not our intention or understanding.”
Staff had moved 1,200 of the individuals receiving support from the hardship fund to other programs, which had left just 300 people to be identified on a case-by-case basis. The fund will now continue to offer support to those individuals and it will accept new people if they are eligible.
The issue will go back to council in October for clarification.