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United Counties of Prescott and Russell administration building in L'Orignal. Photo: James Morgan

Federal pandemic benefits translates into reduced Ontario Works caseload for UCPR in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the number of users of social assistance and Early Years childcare services in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR).

At the February 24 UCPR council meeting, Director of Social Services Sylvie Millette presented the statistical report for the department in 2020.

In January 2020, 1,060 residents of the UCPR were receiving Ontario Works (welfare) benefits.  By April, when the pandemic had been officially in effect for approximately one month, 1,049 people were collecting Ontario Works Benefits, and by June, the number of Ontario Works recipients had decreased to 961.  As of December 2020, the number of UCPR residents receiving Ontario Works benefits had decreased to 805.  Throughout the year, the Ontario Works caseload decreased by 195 in the UCPR.

Millette explained that the reason for the decrease in the Ontario Works caseload was the introduction of the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which was introduced in the spring of 2020 to provide financial relief to eligible Canadians during the pandemic.  Enhancements were also made to the Employment Insurance system to assist people facing financial challenges due to the pandemic.

“Clients that would normally apply for Ontario Works applied for the new federal benefits instead,” said Millette.

Early Years

The number of children receiving Early Years childcare services in the UCPR decreased by 165 in 2020.  In January 2020, 730 children were receiving Early Years services.  By June, the number had decreased to 713 children, and 2020 ended with 565 children receiving Early Years services in December.

Millette explained that the reason for the decrease is that fewer children required Early Years services because more parents were working from home due to the pandemic.

Public housing

The number of UCPR residents living in public housing was more constant throughout the year in 2020.  The year began with 582 people living in family units in January.  By June, the number of people living in family units had decreased to 571.  The year 2020 ended with 566 UCPR residents living in public housing family units in December.

The number of senior citizens living in public housing in the UCPR changed even less in 2020.  In January, 153 people were living in senior citizen housing units.  As of June 2020, there were 152 people living in senior citizen units, and there were 155 people living in senior citizen public housing units in the UCPR as of December 2020.

According to Millette, decreases in the number of UCPR residents living in public housing units in 2020 were due to dependent adults moving out of the household, or couples separating.  She said that changes in the number of people waiting for public housing were sometimes due to individuals exceeding the income limit of $31,000 for eligibility.

There were no questions or discussion about the 2020 social services statistics from council.  Adoption of the report was moved by Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly and seconded by La Nation Mayor François St-Amour and was carried unanimously.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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