Cornwall and area residents relying on social services to help pay the bills are in for a rude awakening.
City officials announced this week $2 million in provincial funding that social service administrators used to dole out for things like topping off overdue rent and home heating bills has been shelved by Queen's Park.
A stark warning was issued to city councilllors from Cornwall's social services manager Deborah Daigle this week that a tidal wave of complaints and concerns is looming on the horizon.
"The provincial budget changes (mean the) answer will be 'no' more often in the future," Daigle said.
The province has effectively cancelled the so-called Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit program while revamping transfer payments for social services.
In broad strokes, it means Cornwall will be out $2 million to help the working poor, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients. The changes handed down by the province take effect in January.
"The municipal budget is not going to be hit particularly hard," said Daigle. "But the servicesto the community absolutely are."
Coun. Bernadette Clement expressed worry about what this will mean as the home heating season is fast approaching.
"These are real dollars we're not going to have," she said.
The city will be forced to grapple with this issue more as it jumps into budget deliberations for 2013.
"I don't know where we are going to start," said Coun. Gerry Samson. "There are people out there in need."
Last year, roughly $1.1 million was doled out to Ontario Works recipients with three-quarters of the money going to utility companies, fuel companies and landlords. For people on ODSP roughly $902,000 was handed out. The changes could affect thousands of people in the region with roughly 7,438 on welfare and ODSP caseloads.
The program cancellation is the latest change to come down the pipe from the Ontario government as it tries to rein in a $15-billion deficit.