For 14 years, the Jane Finch Community and Family Centre has been assisting low-income families in Toronto. The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services of Ontario has funded four such centers.
Both the FEPS program and the Ontario Financial Empowerment Champions’ funding is set to expire at the end of March. Over 100,000 Ontarians have benefited from the two programs, which have generated $391.3 million in new income.
According to Prosper Canada, the charity that administers the funding, both programs cost the provincial government $1.7 million per year. According to advocates, the timing of the situation could not be worse: many cities are in the midst of tax season. “These are people who look to us for help”.
“We can’t overlook the community’s trust in community-based social service agencies like ours,” says Lee Soda, executive director of Agincourt Community Services Association. According to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, funding for the Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving Program will be extended in collaboration with Prosper Canada. The ministry did not provide any additional information, but did say that it will meet with Prosper Canada this week. The ministry said in a statement to CBC News that it is working to ensure that Ontarians get the benefits to which they are entitled.
The Jane Finch centre in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighborhood runs the FEPS program, which is run by social workers.
“I think everyone understands that the pressure is really high right now, and this isn’t the time to take away services from people,” said Elizabeth Mulholland, CEO of Prosper Canada, noting that COVID has resulted in far fewer places in Ontario offering free tax filing services.
Prosper has been in discussions with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, according to Mulholland, and is seeking a three-year extension of the programs.
“I do believe that [the province] sees the importance of it and they’re very alive to the needs of Ontarians right now, particularly low income ones,” Mulholland said.
It’s not just about keeping the programs running for themselves for community members like Macias, but also for others who might need it in the future.
“I hope these centres remain open for our community and for the future immigrants who come here,” she said.
News and picture source: CBC