YWCA Toronto’s Recommendations for Ontario 2022 Budget
YWCA Toronto’s Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on the 2022 Budget.
January 26, 2022
YWCA Toronto is the city’s largest multi-service organization serving women, girls, and gender diverse people. Each year, our Association serves over 13,000 people in more than 30 programs. We help community members escape violence, move out of poverty and access safe, affordable housing. We also work tenaciously to challenge gender and racial inequities. To learn more about our Association, please refer to our 2021 Annual Report. To access our pre-budget oral presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs given on January 19, 2022, please click here.
As a member of a provincial YWCA Coalition, we offer a range of housing options, employment and training programs, community supports, child care services, and girls’ programs – all designed to address the needs of girls, women, and gender diverse people. Combined, we help almost 50,000 community members across 11 municipalities in Ontario, from Sudbury to Hamilton.
A two-year long COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated gender and racial inequities. We are tremendously concerned about the communities we serve and the unequal impacts of the pandemic on low-income individuals and families, particularly women who are precariously housed and survivors of gender-based violence. We are also extremely concerned about our sector – the non-profit sector – and the mental health and well-being of our front-line workers.
Each year, YWCA Toronto has come before the government to urge further investments in a range of areas – from housing to employment to child care – that we know will substantively promote gender equity. In the 2022 Budget, we hope to see greater investments in child care and the non-profit sector, in wage enhancements for essential workers and increased benefits for social assistance recipients, as well as a repeal of Bill 124. We believe these investments will address growing gender and racial disparities, and provide the groundwork for an inclusive and equitable recovery when the pandemic does conclude.
Specifically, YWCA Toronto recommends the Province:
1. Sign the Federal Child Care Agreement
a. Invest in a publicly funded, universal child care system by signing the federal child care agreement to lower child care fees, enhance funding for operators, and increase wages for child care workers.
b. Address the shortage of early childhood educators and improve long-term affordability and accessibility of child care.
c. Ensure federal child care dollars support both public- and non-profit-driven expansion of child care services that offer a range of flexible models for high-quality and accessible early learning.
d. Prioritize immediate support for non-profit child care centres that are currently operating at a deficit. Temporary centre closures related to COVID-outbreaks, staff shortages due to COVID-illness, the cost of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies, and higher vacancy rates due to pandemic-related parental anxiety and financial instability have all contributed to rising operating costs.
e. Ensure an adequate, safe and affordable supply of PPE, testing equipment, and priority status for testing and contact tracing for all child care workers.
2. Reinstate the $4 Salary Enhancement for Front-Line Workers
a. Reinstate the $4 per hour salary increase for front-line workers in Violence Against Women shelters that ended in August 2020, and expand it to include child care, emergency shelter and supportive housing workers. The ‘pandemic pay premium’ was a powerful financial acknowledgment of the dedication, long hours, and health risks assumed by front-line workers. Although Personal Support Workers continue to receive a wage enhancement, front-line workers in our sector no longer receive a topup by the Province.
b. Many front-line jobs in essential services are performed by racialized women. It is important the Province demonstrates its commitment to gender and racial equity by improving wages. All top-ups should be made permanent.
3. Invest $75 Million in COVID-Related Upskilling for Women Workers
a. Recognize women as a specialized demographic within the transformation framework of the Employment Ontario program. Women should be considered a priority employment group, particularly in light of COVID-19.
b. Invest $75 million in new money towards women’s upskilling programs for women impacted by COVID and to support low income women’s access to the labour market. Invest in women-specific training programs provided by women-centered non-profits.
c. Funding dollars in skilled trades and development should have clear gender targets to guarantee flow to women’s organizations.
4. Improve Social Assistance Rates
a. Accept the federal government’s assessment that a minimum of $2000/month is needed for individuals to make ends meet, and invest in increases to Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program until monthly benefits reflect this minimum standard, ensuring that people living with disabilities have access to additional supports.
b. Increase the Ontario Child Benefit and remove all immigration status-based barriers preventing access to provincial child benefits.
c. Remove immigration status barriers from eligibility to income support so that all people in Ontario can access income security measures.
5. Invest in a Sector Stabilization Fund for Non-Profits
a. Provide stabilization funding for non-profits to withstand the significant disruptions to our revenue and operations so we can continue to serve our communities and local economies in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, as recommended by the Ontario Nonprofit Network.
b. The non-profit sector needs public funding to support necessary infrastructure costs to continue providing responsive essential services, as well as cover additional costs related to COVID-19 such as PPE supplies, additional paid sick days, and equitable workplace accommodations for employees.
c. At least 800,000 of Ontario’s million non-profit workers are women. As a woman-majority sector performing essential services, investment in our sector allows us to support our feminized workforce and ensure pay equity better with other industries.
6. Repeal Bill 124
a. Commit to using global funding budgets to manage costs rather than wage controls that constrain provincially funded non-profits in our ability to attract and retain talent, as recommended by the Ontario Nonprofit Network.
b. Ensure provincial funding agreements reflect business costs, including administrative expenses, digital infrastructure costs, pay equity maintenance, and PPE.
c. Revise employment standards legislation to introduce permanent paid sick days, a minimum wage that reflects a living wage, and ensure all workers in the province have access to minimum employment standards.
7. Prioritize Housing Investments and Rent Relief Measures
a. Deploy as much as possible of the $1.4 billion funding for rent payment support under the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit and double Ontario’s contribution of $700 million. Immediately deploy Ontario’s share of federal funding under the $1 billion Rapid Housing Initiative to acquire, develop and maintain affordable housing and match that with Ontario’s own contribution of $400 million.
b. Provide additional funds to support the provision of wrap-around services for those housed through the Rapid Housing Initiative.
c. Invest in creating 30,000 new supportive housing units over the next 10 years to meet the needs of individuals living with mental health issues and to make significant progress in alleviating chronic homelessness across the province, as urged by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario.
d. Invest in portable rent relief measures that tenants can easily access and can help maintain and stabilize housing during a time of increased poverty, food insecurity, and labour market disruptions.
8. Dedicate Funding for Girls’ Programming
a. Invest $30 million to create a dedicated girls’-specific youth fund that women’s organizations – and other organizations with emerging and established girls’ programs – can access.
b. Provide specific funding to help girls from low-income households access STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs.
For more information please contact, Jasmine Ramze Rezaee, Director of Advocacy and Communications, YWCA Toronto: firstname.lastname@example.org