Ottawa residents plead for government to double ODSP
Ottawa resident Scott Ferguson is often forced to make a choice when it comes to affording food, rent and medical care, but he can't cover all the expenses.
"Every month is a struggle," he said. "I basically eat one meal a day. It helps when I get extra money so I could put it into food."
The 50-year-old gets $1,169 a month through the Ontario Disability Support Program, the annual rate falling well below the provincial poverty line.
"I rely on it for my entire income," he said. "I don’t have any other source of income."
Ferguson, who lives with spinal degeneration, says inflation rates have driven costs up so high that he’s worried he can’t keep up. Even though he lives with a roommate to offset the rent, and receives financial help from his retired mother.
"There wasn’t any future for him working because of his disability and it’s been difficult," said 75-year-old Una Ferguson. "I’ve ended up working longer to support Scott."
More than 200 advocacy groups signed an open letter from Income Security Advocacy Centre, asking the Ontario government to double ODSP payment rates to keep up with the soaring cost of living.
The recent provincial election saw Premier Doug Ford promise to raise ODSP rates by five per cent, and introduce legislation to tie annual increases to inflation.
"By raising it five per cent it does nothing to change the problem," said Kenzie McCurdy with Stop Gap Ottawa. "Online I’ve seen comments, 'Well, you need to budget better.' How do you budget $1,169 to manage rent? That is a thousand dollars and everything else you need to do. There’s no budgeting in the world that can help with that.”
Advocacy groups say the proposal, which equals an additional $58 a month, is far from enough to survive. It means people like Jessica Watters are forced to live with roommates, hoping to save enough money to cover the medical bills they know will be coming.
"It stresses me out because it feels like every year it gets harder to get by because the goal post keeps moving," said the 33-year-old, who was diagnosed with chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction.
CTV News Ottawa spoke with several people on social assistance who say they feel like they are being left behind living on a stagnant income they say is barely enough to survive.
"Doubling would put me in the poverty line," said Ferguson. "It would make a world of a difference, it would allow me to budget."