Social service cuts nearly erased with provincial band-aid

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Cornwall city hall

The province has loosened its purse strings and will partially fund a massive social service cut that would have forced city hall to fork over $2 million in an already tough budget year.

City councilllors have been informed that the cut will now equate to just $350,000 - which will be a lot easier to find in a year when taxes are already forecast to jump by as much as three per cent.

The bad news is Queen's Park has made it clear this is a one-time grant - the money, at least for now, won't be available in 2014 when the city will have to start paying for other big ticket items like the new multi-million dollar waste water treatment plant.

"We're not going to get it next year," said Coun. Andre Rivette in an interview. "But this is a major thing...we're very happy to be getting this money."

The city was staring down the barrel of a loaded social service gun.

The cuts were announced in this year’s provincial budget, part of a reorganization of Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program. Five previous funding streams have been fused into the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

In the past municipalities that operate the province's Ontario Works program would use the money for those who fell behind on heating bills and the like. There's more than 6,500 in this region on social services that would have been told the pot was dry this winter.

While the funding help is being labelled as a one-time only affair, Coun. Elaine MacDonald said with a new provincial budget on the way in March - and the potential for an election shortly thereafter - it's conceivable Queen's Park will rethink its plans for eliminating the funding.

"This had better not become a permanent download," she said. "Municipalities across the province were really reeling from this decision."

“This one-time funding will work in combination with existing housing and homelessness supports,” said Minister of Community and Social Services John Milloy in a news release. “Our goal is to ensure security and stability for people receiving assistance from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program while municipalities develop their CHPI investment plans.”

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