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Toronto Hardship Fund on the chopping block

By KJ Mullins     Nov 24, 2011 in World
Toronto - The City of Toronto's Hardship Fund could be lost if just over half of the City Council gets their way at the next vote. A program that costs the city less that $1 million a year and provides for residents in the most need is set to be scrapped.
What is the Hardship Fund? It's a fund for Toronto residents who are not receiving social assistance benefits but can't afford the medical or funeral costs that they are facing. Used mostly by seniors and the disabled, this 'last resort' fund helps when OHIP does not.
While OHIP covers most of Torontorians medical needs there are cracks that those facing serious medical conditions slip through. Medication, dental care, eyeglasses, medical supplies and medical special devices are not covered. Funeral costs are also not covered by the province's medical plan.
The special fund has limits, it is only for those who are living at their own home who need help and are not in a chronic care facility, a home for the aged or a jail. The fund does not reimburse those who have already purchased their needed items, it's for those who do not have the funds to cover the cost in the first place.
Considering that many retirees are living on pensions that barely cover their basic needs a medical problem can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Such was the case of Shirley Schillinger reported The Toronto Star. Schillinger, 69, has chronic pain from neck and back surgeries and is currently bed bound. To prevent bed sores and have a better quality of life she needed a hospital bed with a special air mattress and electric lift that allowed her to raise and lower her head and feet. Sadly she couldn't afford a $3,500 bed with the mere $1,200 pension she lives on. Because of the Hardship Fund Schillinger has that bed. The bed, along with visiting nurses means she doesn't need to be in hospital or a nursing home.
The added cost to the average property taxpayer for the Hardship Fund in Toronto is sixty cents. That .60 cent is on the chopping block. During the September City Council vote 23 City Councilors, including Mayor Rob Ford voted to eliminate the fund.
In favour: (i.e. save the Hardship Fund)
Councillors Augimeri, Bailao, Carroll, Cho, Colle, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Doucette, Filion, Fletcher, Fragedakis, Layton, Lee, Matlow, McConnell, McMahon, Mihevc, Perks, Perruzza, Robinson, Vaughan, Wong-Tam
Against: (i.e. consider eliminating the Hardship Fund)
Councillors Ainslie, Berardinetti, Crawford, Crisanti, Del Grande, Di Giorgio, Ford, Grimes, Holyday, Kelly, Lindsay Luby, Mammoliti, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Moeser, Nunziata, Palacio, Parker, Pasternak, Shiner, Stintz, Thompson, Mayor Ford
An open letter from several agencies that support the Hardship Fund to the Toronto City Council gets to the heart of the matter.
"The Hardship Fund is a critical support for the poorest in our city. The fund was established in 1999 to
help people living in poverty and ineligible for provincial income support to cover the costs of
prescription drugs, medically necessary items such as prosthetics, dental care and dentures, eyeglasses
and funeral costs. It helps people take care of health care emergencies before they worsen, preventing
an even greater cost to our health care and social service systems."
There is one more vote before people like Shirley Schillinger will fall through the cracks and have to leave their homes for long term facilities, a move that costs the taxpayers much more in the end. There is a "Change of Heart" petition for the Hardship Fund.
More about Toronto Hardship Fund, City hall, Toronto, City council, Medical needs
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