Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefit rates have been increased by 6.5 per cent as of July 2023, in accordance with the cost-of-living formula set by the Government of Ontario. This means that a single person on ODSP with no dependents will now receive a maximum of $1,308 per month (an increase of $81 per month over 2022).
Feed Ontario and the provincial food bank network commend the Ontario government for following through on their commitment to maintain ODSP rates alongside inflation. This is essential in ensuring that provincial support programs do not deteriorate as the cost-of-living increases.
While this is an essential and welcomed step, it is important to recognize that, even with the increase, ODSP rates still fall below their value in 2018 ($1,376 when adjusted for inflation) and significantly below the disability-adjusted poverty line ($3,091 per month). ODSP rates do not provide sufficient income for a basic standard of living and, as a result, hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the program live in poverty.
It is also important to recognize that, while increases to ODSP rates have been made over the last two years, Ontario Works (OW) benefit rates have remained frozen for the last five years. OW recipients continue to receive only $733 per month, the same amount they received in 2018. When accounting for inflation and the rising cost of living, OW recipients have experienced an 18 per cent cut in real income.
Further, although the Government of Ontario has also taken a commendable step in increasing the earned income limit under ODSP, this change was not applied to Ontario Works. As a result, OW recipients can only earn $200 per month before their benefit is clawed back by 50 cents on every dollar earned. As minimum wage increases, this significant clawback makes it even more difficult to escape poverty.
Social assistance recipients (OW and ODSP) represent nearly 2 out of 3 people who rely on food banks in Ontario. While food banks strive to serve everyone in their community who needs support, they are designed as an emergency service to fill a short-term gap, not to shoulder or subsidize inadequate government programming or underfunded benefits.
As escalating food bank use in Ontario continues to break records, Feed Ontario and the provincial food bank network call upon the Government of Ontario to end legislated poverty by immediately increasing social assistance rates under both Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program to the poverty line.
 2022 Market Basket Measure for Toronto, adjusted for inflation (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1110006601), adjusted up 30% to account for the additional costs of living with a disability (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11205-022-02900-1, https://www.disabilitypolicyalliance.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/CDSP-270116-1.pdf)