By Louise Kinross

As part of its fall economic statement, the Ontario government is increasing the amount of money someone on the Ontario Disability Support Program can earn before reducing their ODSP payment.

Currently, you can earn $200 a month to supplement your benefit, but for each dollar earned over $200, 50 cents is cut from your ODSP support.

With the proposed change, ODSP recipients can earn and keep up to $1,000 each month, but every dollar earned after $1,000 would mean a reduction of 75 cents from their benefit. 

“My take is that anyone who works part-time wins a bit,” says Ottawa autistic activist Maddy Dever. Under the current program, someone who makes $1,000 a month receives a total income of $1,828 after the 50 per cent clawback. Under the new rule, that person would get $2,228, or $400 more.

In its news release, the Ontario government said about 25,000 people who receive ODSP are in the workforce. That’s out of a total number of 378,185 people who received ODSP as of July this year, the Maytree Foundation reports.

“It sounds good, but even with the change we’re still talking about people being at bare poverty level,” Maddy says. “Most people who receive ODSP do so because they have a disability and are unable to work. This is not an incentive for people who don’t work to work. Physiotherapy for people like us isn’t covered. Having physiotherapy might make a difference between some people being able to work part-time.” Maddy fears the change may further stigmatize people who are unable to work.

Maddy says the real problem lies with the ODSP rate. The government increased it five per cent in the summer to a maximum of $1,228 a month for a single person. “But inflation has been nine per cent, so that works out to a deduction of income,” Maddy says. “People on ODSP live in significant, severe poverty.”

The government says it will tie the ODSP rate to inflation beginning in July of next year. But the rate would have to be doubled now to bring people to the poverty line, Maddy says.

In its economic statement, the government also said it would adjust the monthly amount for the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities Program annually to inflation, beginning next summer.

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