Communities testing basic income project to be announced this spring
The Bank of Canada has also repeatedly issued warnings about the steady climb of household debt. (File image)
With the province only a short time away from testing out a basic income program, more information is coming to light about what exactly that test might entail.
Over the past few months, more than 35,000 people and organizations have shared their thoughts on a basic income with the province.
Most of that feedback has come through an online survey, although the province did hold a number of in-person consultation sessions, including one in Kitchener in January.
Officials say that feedback has been taken into account for Ontario’s first pilot project of a basic income, details of which will be announced later this spring.
Talk of a basic income program typically takes the form of a payment that could replace Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program and other existing welfare programs.
It can involve giving all residents the same amount of money, or giving ‘top-up’ payments to people whose personal incomes do not meet a certain minimum threshold.
Advocates have long argued that providing more certainty around income for eligible families would in turn improve outcomes around health, housing and employment, while also being easier to administer than the various welfare programs and tax credits currently in place.
According to the province, the main themes of the feedback were focused around ensuring the pilot project includes urban, rural and northern parts of the province, and pre-retirement adults of all ages, likely with a focus on communities with higher poverty rates.
The pilot is also expected to cover people living in various low-income situations, including some who are working. Unlike some programs, it would not require proof that a recipient is actively looking for work. Anyone who signs up for the pilot and feels their financial situation has worsened as a result will be able to exit it partway through.
The exact amount of money provided through a basic income program would likely be tied in some way to the Low Income Measure – a number often used to define Ontario’s poverty line.
If a basic income level was set at 75 per cent of that number, which would be on the lower end of what has been suggested, 2016 amounts would have been $24,027 for a couple or $16,989 for a single person. Families with children could get more money.
Once the pilot is in place, statistics including participating communities’ food bank usage, homelessness rates, domestic violence rates, hospital visits and volunteerism would likely be used to gauge its effectiveness.
If the pilot finds that a basic income does achieve some or all of the project’s goals of reducing poverty, improving health, and improving employment outcomes, it could then be adopted Ontario-wide.