Poverty Reduction: What Can We Do? With Tom Cooper

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Posted in Debt Help
Posted by J. Douglas Hoyes, CA, CPA, LIT, CIRP, CBV

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We know from our Joe Debtor study that the average person in Ontario who files a consumer proposal or bankruptcy has an income that is almost 40% lower than the median income in Ontario. Low or sporadic incomes make it difficult to keep up with the cost of living. The Ontario government has recognized this fact and has started a pilot project for basic income in three cities across the province. Hamilton is one of those cities, and with me today is Tom Cooper, Director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, to discuss how this pilot project may help alleviate poverty in Hamilton.

Can Basic Income Lead to Poverty Reduction?

This basic income pilot project is an initiative to reduce poverty in our province and provide people with a basic standard of living. Many existing benefits are not enough for people to pay rent, food, and transportation costs. As a result, more people turn to debt to make ends meet as noted in our 2017 Joe Debtor study.

While there are existing programs to help support incomes, Tom Cooper states that:

the provincial government is legislating hunger through its inability and inaction on fixing social assistance rates.

The province hopes that by paying Ontarians a basic income they will be more likely able to balance their budget and not have to use debt to pay for everyday expenses.

Living Wage Employers

As of March 2017 Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc. became a Living Wage Employer. Ted and I have signed as a champion level employer with Living Wage Waterloo Region. This is something that we hope other employers will take up voluntarily as we believe it lessens the burden on government, and helps both employees and employers:

  1. Employees earn more. This is beneficial for their household family income, and hopefully means they can better balance their budget.
  2. Employers see less turnover. Employees who are being paid more feel valued and want to stay within the organization.
  3. Communities benefit. A little bit more money in everyone’s pockets means there’s a bit more money being re-circulated into the local community on goods and services.

Resources mentioned in this show:

FULL TRANSCRIPT show #145 with Tom Cooper

Doug Hoyes: Earlier this year we released our Joe Debtor study where we profile our typical client and we discovered something that surprised me. The average person in Ontario who files a consumer proposal or bankruptcy has an income that is almost 40% lower than the median income in Ontario.

In other words most of my clients don’t have a debt problem, they have an income problem. Many of my clients face temporary income problems, they got injured at work but then they recovered and were back at work and their income returned to normal but they used debt to survive while they were off work and now they can’t pay back that debt or they lost their job and have now found a new one, but again that interruption in income caused their debt problems.

But I also have clients who don’t have temporary income problems, they have permanent income problems. Perhaps they’re retired and on a fixed pension or they may have medical issues so they may have medical issues so they’re on ODSP or some other form of disability income. They too turn to debt, like expensive payday loans, to make ends meet.

So, what’s the solution? 100 years ago we tended to live in small communities close to our families so your close family could help out. Today we move around for work and we live in big cities so it’s not always possible for family and friends to help out. Is there anything society can do to help reduce these income challenges? Are there alternatives? So, someone who doesn’t even earn enough to pay for rent, food and basic living costs isn’t forced to turn to debt to survive? And if so, what’s the best approach? That’s the issue today on Debt Free in 30 so let’s get started and meet my guest. Who are you and what do you do?

Tom Cooper: Hi Doug, I’m Tom Cooper. I’m Director of The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

Doug Hoyes: Excellent, well thank you very much for being here today Tom. We are recording this in our Hamilton office on Hamilton mountain and we’re going to put a video of our chat up on YouTube so if you actually want to watch two people talking on the radio then it’ll be very compelling for you. I want to get you to flesh out a bit what you just said. So, The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, you are you said the Executive Director?

Tom Cooper: I am, I am the Director and the group has been around for about 10 years now in Hamilton and it really emerged as a result of the growing poverty and income inequality in Hamilton. So, in 2006 there was a report that went to Hamilton City Council outlining that one in five kids were growing up in low income households. They were certainly struggling, their families were struggling, council wanted action.

So, out of that a couple of community leaders, Joanne Pyle who is General Manager of Community Services at the city and Carolyn Milne who is Executive Director of the Hamilton Community Foundation brought together community leaders to look at poverty in a little bit of a different way. In Hamilton we have great organizations, great social service agencies doing important work and critically they’re helping people deal with their day-to-day crisis. So, whether those are food banks or homeless shelters or other social service agencies, they’re helping people.

But the challenge is it’s almost like pulling people out of the river. We’re getting really good at that as a society but we’re not doing enough really to understand why people are falling in upstream in the first place. And so, really our roundtable came about as a way of looking at some of the systemic issues that lead to poverty to bring the community together in a more collaborative way and to work with the local government, the provincial government and if possible the federal government to bring in new policies that would help lift people out of poverty and really lead to long-term poverty reduction in our community.

Doug Hoyes: So what you are looking at is the problem not the symptom.

Tom Cooper: Yeah, exactly. And it’s something that has been challenging for sure. One of the first things we did as a roundtable was try to help Hamiltonians understand really the depth of poverty and society and in our own community as well. So, we crunched the numbers, we looked at who was experiencing deep poverty. You mentioned seniors and that was certainly a significant number, although number of seniors experiencing poverty has dropped quite a bit over the last 20 years but is now starting to spike up again as I’m sure you’ve seen.

We know low income families with only one earner, one person working in the household have been very challenged, persons with disabilities, certain our urban-Aboriginal population, newcomers as well face significant barriers. And for all newcomers who come into our community, about one out of every two experience poverty about after five years after arriving in Canada. So that’s an important and significant issue I think. But I think for The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction we started off by looking at children experiencing poverty and understanding there were enough kids living in poverty in Hamilton at that time to fill Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Doug Hoyes: Wow.

Tom Cooper: Yeah, there’s certainly a community shame. So, we wanted to try to build a little bit better understanding of what we could do as a society to change this to get our local government as well as community organizations to work together a little bit together to collectively try to respond to what’s really a crisis in our community.

Doug Hoyes: And I want to talk about solutions but before I do so how does your organization get its funding?

Tom Cooper: We have a little bit of funding from the city of Hamilton, we have annual funding, not a lot and we received some funding from the Hamilton Community Foundation as well. So these are both our founding organizations and what we call our convenors. Depending on our different projects from time to time we’ll also look for additional funding to work on specific things. I think we’ll talk a little bit about living wage, a little bit about some of the other projects we’ve been working on.

Doug Hoyes: Well, so let’s do that then; let’s talk about a couple of the potential solutions for poverty, not just in Hamilton but everywhere. So, you mentioned two, living wage and basic income. So, let’s start with living wage and let’s define what we’re talking about. People think oh, you’re talking about living wage, no, no totally different. Minimum wage is the government says this is the minimum you’ve got to pay people, we all understand what minimum wage is, we’ve had something like that in Ontario for many years. Living wage is different, what is it?

Tom Cooper: It’s different in that it challenges employers to think a little bit differently about the needs of their employees. And it sets a different standard than minimum wage. It really looks at what workers need to earn at their jobs to meet all their needs but also to be able to participate as well in their community. And so here in Hamilton a living wage is pegged at $15.85 and that has been –

Doug Hoyes: You’re talking a per hour wage.

Tom Cooper: Yeah.

Doug Hoyes: And that would be based on a 40-hour week?

Tom Cooper: It’s 37.5-hour week and it’s really reflective of the costs workers bear in terms of housing, in terms of food, utilities, other family needs. It’s done through a calculation that’s been developed by living wage organizations across the country through a national framework and really peer reviewed by economists at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

All living wage campaigns across the country use the same sort of formula for calculating a living wage. But living wages do differ from community to community as costs of living changes as well. So it’s going to be a little bit higher in Toronto than it is in Hamilton. And a little big higher in Hamilton than it might be in other communities like Windsor say where housing prices are still a little bit lower. And really the living wage we think is a win/win/win. It’s certainly a win for employees because they’re earning a little bit more. It’s a win as well we think for employers because when employers implement what they’ve told us is there’s far less turnover, less sick time, less absenteeism and more productivity by their employees.

When employees feel valued they want to work harder and they want to stay with the organization. It’s also a win for communities as well because we know when workers are earning a little bit more that’s money that’s being re-circulated in the community on goods and services. It’s helping to drive local economic growth and create jobs.

And so we’ve been encouraging employers to look at living wage. And it’s voluntary sign on, it’s not something that’s mandated and that’s another big difference between a living wage and a minimum wage. But we found here in Hamilton there’s been a lot of uptake. We have more than 30 employers that have stepped forward, small businesses, non-profit organizations even our public school board has made that jump. We have more than 150 organizations across the province that have signed living wage declarations. And they’re saying yes, yes to jobs that pay a good salary but also I think yes to the idea that workers should be valued for the work that they do.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah and as you know our organization is part of that. Not here in Hamilton because our head office is Kitchener but I mean all of our staff in Hamilton would also qualify. We signed a living wage employee declaration as a champion level employer with Living Wage Waterloo Region. That was back in March of this year 2017.

And from my point of view as an employer what appealed to me was it gave us a benchmark. So, how do I know as an employer what it costs everyone to live? I mean I have a rough idea, I go to the grocery store myself, I have to put gas in my car, I understand all those things. But I think with the living wage I think it gives you a benchmark that says as you said they calculate what all the different costs are but they also calculate what people are also receiving.

So if you have kids well, you’re getting child tax credits for example. If you’re a senior you’re getting, you know, other different types of supports. So, it factors that in, it’s not saying your wage has to cover absolutely everything if there are other sources of income coming in. So, it seems like a reasonable number. And so, as an employer it allowed me to say okay this is where the line should be set, let’s make sure that people are at or above the line.

And in our case, I mean we have a lot of professional staff so they were above the line anyways but we do have administrative staff who were close to the line. So, we said okay this is our opportunity to make sure that they are over that line. And it also appealed to me because you said it’s voluntary. No one is telling me that if you don’t do this then bad things are going to happen, it’s here kind of the threshold. So, that’s why I like the program. And I certainly encourage other employers to investigate it and look into it and we’ll put some show notes how they can find that.

And I understand that, you know, every industry is different. I mean if you’re the automotive industry and all your employees are making $25 an hour, okay it’s not an issue. Okay it’s – you’re way above it, it doesn’t matter. If you run a hospital that employs doctors again okay it’s not an issue. I mean I guess if you run a, you know, fast food restaurant okay maybe that’s a lot more difficult then because a lot of your costs are labour and to bump that number up considerably might be very difficult. But at the very least it’s a benchmark, so I think that’s a good idea.

Tom Cooper: Exactly and as you say and inferred, it’s evidence based. And it’s reflective of what employees really need to earn to make end’s meet and certainly not go deep debt as we’re seeing many, many low income workers need to do.

Doug Hoyes: And our numbers showed the same thing. I mean our clients earn less than the median Ontario income, so that’s certainly a factor. So, living wage, that’s an understandable concept. Let’s talk about the second thing you mentioned, which is basic income. So, give us a real broad quick definition of it. And we have talked about it on the show before; I’ll put some links into the show notes. I had David McDonald on to talk about it a while ago. So, give us what is basic income and then my follow up question will be tell me about Hamilton and basic income.

Tom Cooper: Yeah and it’s a very interesting time for basic income. So, basic income has not been tried yet in Ontario, it’s going to be. Premier Wynne was in town a few weeks ago announcing that Ontario would be launching its first basic income pilot project in Hamilton. It was one of three communities that was chosen to participate.

4,000 people across the province will be provided with basically a government transfer and it’s going to be around $17,000 a year. Very few strings attached, very few questions asked. As long as you fall below a low-income threshold you could potentially participate. People are going to be randomly chosen from what we understand and it will be an opportunity I think for the government to see whether providing a basic income, this government transfer, will be able to assist people to move out of poverty, maintain housing, particularly maintain health. And look at what the community benefits and some of those, some of those potential benefits around that we talked about with living wage around local community economic development comes to fruition as well.

Basic income has been tried in Canada once before in a little town in Manitoba called Dauphin. They had 4,000 people there receiving a basic income in the 1970s and there were some great results that came from that. The pilot only lasted three or four years but they found that people who were receiving a basic income actually maintained their jobs and often looked to maintain that strong relationship with the labour force. They stayed healthier, they maintained their housing. So, we’ll be looking to see whether we have similar results here in Hamilton over the next few years as the province and hopefully some community partners participate in evaluating that.

One of the challenges though is that once again there’s 1,000 people participating but we know there are close to 80,000 or more people who are experiencing deep poverty in Hamilton. And more than half of them are on provincial social assistance programs so you reference the Ontario Disability Support Program, there’s also Ontario Works, which is basic welfare.

A single person on Ontario Works today receives $706 a month to live on and that’s supposed to cover everything from housing to food to utilities to be able to move around the community and maybe go to medical appointments to being able to afford a telephone. So, potential employer could call them back if they’re trying to get a job. The numbers just don’t add up, costs are way too high in communities and so we’re seeing people particularly on Ontario Works, on ODSP as well living in some of the deepest poverty in society. Many of the programs that have been put in place to assist people on social assistance are really not doing the job in terms of being able to move people off that cycle of poverty.

Doug Hoyes: Is it just because the numbers are too small, $706 a month you can’t pay rent in a lot of places for that let alone food.

Tom Cooper: Exactly.

Doug Hoyes: So, the concept behind basic income is at its most pure level everybody gets a basic or a universal income. So, whatever the number is a thousand bucks, $1,500 a month, $2,000, whatever the number is, everybody gets it and it doesn’t matter if you’re working or not, whether you’re 18 years old or 75 years old, here’s the number you get it.

And the theory is if I know that my basic needs are met because in my example I got $1,500 coming in let’s say, I know that I can rent a place for 800 or 900 bucks a month, I can buy groceries. I’m good. So, if I get laid off tomorrow I’m not going to have to rush out and get a payday loan to pay my rent, I know that the money is coming. That’s the concept.

And as you said, and you cited the example from Dauphin Manitoba, 40, 50 years ago where they did a basic income pilot and they did find that people’s health situation was actually a bit better. Because while I’m able to buy food, I’m less likely then to get sick because I’m not, I’ve got a warm coat to wear, those sort of things. So, it’s not just I’ve got income but it’s also I’ve got physical security, my health and so is better.

So, all that sounds fantastic, there’s an obvious objection to basic income and that is who’s paying for it? Because if you take 35 million Canadians, well even if you take the adult population 25 million, 30 million, whatever it is, and multiply that by $1,500, that’s a massive number and it’s a lot more than what we spend on all social programs combined today if I’m not mistaken.

Tom Cooper: Exactly.

Doug Hoyes: So, on one hand it makes sense because if we had one basic income we could get rid of a lot of other stuff. I mean we wouldn’t need Ontario Works, I don’t know that we’d need ODSP or not, maybe not. Maybe we wouldn’t unemployment insurance or maybe we would, I don’t know. Maybe we wouldn’t even need OES and CPP and all those other things.

So, there’d be significant savings by combining everything into one program, all the different bureaucracies would be gone, all the different means testing would be gone, you wouldn’t have to fill out an unemployment insurance card every week. But the flipside is 1,500 bucks a person times millions of people is a huge number. So, how can you possibly afford it? How can we as a society possibly afford it?

Tom Cooper: That’s a great question. And I think basic income advocates would point to the cost savings of eliminating some of those programs. The fact is we know let’s just take homelessness as an example; it costs far more to society to keep somebody in a homeless shelter for a month than it does to provide affordable housing for example. Somebody who’s staying in a homeless shelter will cost various levels of government about $2,000 a month for the bricks and mortar of that shelter for the supports they’re being given and that’s really just to sleep on a mat on a floor in a crowded space. Whereas providing a basic income, let’s say $1,500 a month would provide some of those costs savings. Not all poverty reduction advocates are sold on basic income.

Doug Hoyes: Really?

Tom Cooper: No. Many see it as a distraction and I’m somewhere in the middle honestly. So, is it a distraction right now to talk about basic income as a way of not doing the things that society needs to do like providing adequate evidence based social assistance so people could actually live. Right now 75% of people going to food banks right here in Hamilton are actually on provincial social assistance programs. And I’ve often said in a very real sense the provincial government is legislating hunger through its inability and inaction on fixing social assistance rates. Looking at other opportunities around building more affordable housing is just an excuse not to do what government needs to do in terms of investing in affordable housing.

So, there’s a counter argument to that. Many people who are supportive of basic income are in a sense futurists as well, they’re looking at the economy down the road and wondering with more automation, with robots taking over some of the jobs of the future, self driving cars, self driving deliveries, you know, what kind of impact is that technology going to have on the workforce of tomorrow?

Doug Hoyes: It’s going to be huge. I mean we’ve got something like a million people who drive trucks or other delivery vehicles, well if we’ve got automated driving then those millions of people are out of work. You take taxi drivers, school bus drivers, all that sort of thing. So, you’re right, basic income would help with that transition.

You know, a capitalist would tell you well, if you lose one job I guess you’ll find another and that’s always been the case throughout history but there is always a transition period. So, when the industrial revolution started and we moved from the farms to the factories, it didn’t happen overnight. The person who was a great farmer and knew how to do everything, didn’t automatically know how to work a machine. He may not be able to find another job his son perhaps could but he couldn’t. So, basic income would provide a transitional period.

Tom Cooper: And I think the other key piece of that is it keeps the economy humming as well because you need consumers to buy the goods and services if you want to keep things running.

Doug Hoyes: The flipside to that is though the money, we’re not creating money, it’s got to come from someplace to go to the other. So, did we hurt the economy or help the economy? And ultimately that’s my biggest concern with basic income. I see all the good sides to it. Again, I see with our clients who they lost their job and often through no fault of their own, they got sick. They, you know, got injured at work and it takes forever to qualify for WSIB, sometimes a year or two. Your EI runs out, you’re trying to pay the rent so you have to turn to debt. Well, if I had a basic income I wouldn’t have had to. So, I totally get that.

But the flipside is well, to pay this $1,500 so you said that, you know, putting someone in a homeless shelter or someone who’s in a homeless shelter might be costing a couple of thousand dollars a month just for the basic stuff. Okay, well I guess if we replace that with basic income it would cost $1,500 a month so there’s a bit of a saving. But it’s still – I mean what percentage of the population is in a homeless shelter right now? Well, it’s obviously a very small number and we’re talking about a basic income for everyone. So, that to me is the big challenge, how do you make the math work so that it’s effective? We could certainly afford to give everyone $100 basic income but that wouldn’t do any good. It would be great if we could give everybody $10,000 a month but then we couldn’t afford it. So, where do you find the middle ground?

So, last topic I want to cover with you and we’ve alluded to it a couple of times so I’m going to sort of poke you and get you riled up here on it. I mentioned the term payday loans and I know your organization has been actively involved on that front as well. And it is – there are people who have decent incomes that get payday loans, that’s what our studies show. But there are certainly also people who feel they have no alternative whatsoever. The rent is due on the first but my paycheque doesn’t come in until the fifth so I better go get a payday loan. Or my Ontario Works cheque comes in at the end of the month but I’ve got a medical expense I’ve got to pay for today so what do I do? I go and get a payday loan. What are you seeing on the payday loan front?

Tom Cooper: Certainly low income residents of Hamilton, many other Ontario communities are accessing payday loans and they’re being exploited by the industry. We know the payday loan folks prey on those who are desperate for immediate cash. And so what we’ve seen, and you’ve talked about this many times, Doug with the extraordinary interest rates that are charged 450% annualized now I think. You know, people are falling deeper and deeper into debt and certainly the people you are seeing as your clients, many other people in the community who are on extremely low incomes very quickly fall into deep debt and don’t see any way out of it.

What we’ve done is try to shine a bright light on the industry here in Hamilton and we’ve worked with our local city council as well as councillor Matthew Green to bring in the provinces first municipal licensing of payday loan outlets in Hamilton. So, what that means locally here in Hamilton is that payday loan outlets now need to provide to anybody coming in the door a city sanctioned information on credit counselling. They need to post on large posters the actual interest rates of a payday loan versus the interest rates for example of a chartered bank loan. And they also have to pay a licensing fee and we’re hoping this will provide a little bit more information. We’re also trying to work with the provincial government to really tighten up some of those really slick advertising practices, they payday loans employ. You’ve seen them.

Doug Hoyes: Oh yeah.

Tom Cooper: Smiling faces on commercials or on billboards, you know, encouraging people to come in, get your first loan for a dollar and that’s the way of getting them in the door, right? And really before they know what hit them they’ve taken out two or three more loans because they can’t afford to –

Doug Hoyes: Yeah you’ve got to get one to pay the other one.

Tom Cooper: Yep. Can’t afford to pay back the initial loan and get the groceries and pay the rent so they have to take out another loan. So, again this is an industry that I think has had a free ride for far too long and we haven’t seen the government regulation that we’ve needed. And I think things are turning around now thanks to your organization Doug, thanks to many advocates across the province who are really starting to say enough is enough.

Doug Hoyes: And so, has that bylaw come into effect in Hamilton?

Tom Cooper: Yes, that bylaw has come into effect now. So, I think there’s been a little bit of a slow uptake by the payday loan outlets themselves. But if you walk into a payday loan outlet and there’s a number of them here just where we’re meeting just here on Upper James. We should be able to see these city sanctioned posters up outlining the real costs of a payday loan. And that’s a first step and I hope to see much, much more.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah and I’m a big believer in education. And I realize that that doesn’t solve all problems but do people actually understand that a payday loan can actually charge $18 on 100? That’s not 18% that’s $18 on 100. So, if you borrow $100 for two weeks and you pay back $118, if you did that 26 times in a year like you said 468% interest is what you’re paying.

So, is it enough as a starting point to tell people this is what you’re actually paying? Now I guess the counter argument is yeah but I can’t qualify for any other credit. My credit is lousy, I don’t have a job or I have a low income so the banks won’t lend to me so I really have no choice. So, what I’ve tried to advocate is well, no there are always choices.

So, getting a payday loan three days before the first of the month to pay your rent on the first of the month is wickedly expensive. In most cases you’re better off going and talking to your landlord and saying look here’s what happened but I can have you the money on the third when my cheque comes in. In most cases you’re not going to get evicted for being two days late on your rent.

Tom Cooper: Exactly.

Doug Hoyes: It’s the same with your hydro bill. Okay I’ve got $100 hydro bill I’ve only got $50, well pay the $50. They’re probably not going to shut your hydro off for being a little bit late. Whereas when you get that payday loan you’ve now gone down the rabbit hole. You’ve got so much more to pay back.

Tom Cooper: Exactly.

Doug Hoyes: I’ve never been convinced that the government would be the solution to it because I mean sometimes they cause more trouble than they’re worth. We could talk about the housing market on some other show I guess. But, you know, maybe you’re right; maybe it’s what’s got to be done.

Tom Cooper: Yeah and there’s other jurisdictions that put much stricter restrictions on payday loans than Ontario does. So, the government of Quebec for example they made it unprofitable for –

Doug Hoyes: Yeah, essentially you can’t get a payday loan in Quebec.

Tom Cooper: Exactly. And there are Caisse Populaire so credit unions there that do offer loans. We’re working with some of our credit unions here to see if they can offer a product similar to a payday loan but much, much less interest. So, we’re hoping to hear some announcements on that in the next few months. In Vancouver Credit Union Van City has done something very similar and so might be a good model. In the States it goes state by state but Georgia for example the state of Georgia has made payday loans basically illegal. And so, I think there are options and alternatives and people do find alternatives.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah and that’s a very good point, people do find alternatives. So, one of the alternatives we’re seeing more and more of is well, I can get a loan online now. So, there’s no regulation if it’s some company incorporated in the Bahamas. I go online, I get the loan, they put the money in my PayPal account or my bank account or something and now there’s no regulation.

So, I worry about a place like, you know, Quebec where payday loans are illegal. Okay, well we’ll find alternatives, we’ll go to the local loan shark who’ll break out legs if we don’t pay or more likely we’ll go online. And we’re seeing more and more of these. I mean you mentioned Van City in Vancouver and I go okay so do we really want big banks, which is really what they are, getting into the payday loan business and offering high interest loans? I mean is that the solution?

I’d like to come back to what you said at the beginning and maybe this is how we can close the show. You guys are focused on looking at the real problems not the symptoms.

Tom Cooper: Yeah exactly. And one thing I haven’t talked about around really financial security for people on low incomes. One of the things we’ve been rolling out just over the last few months is really trying to let low income families in Hamilton know about their entitlements. And particularly we’ve had the Canada Child Benefit roll out over the last year here in Canada.

For low income families that’s a huge potential increase in come. So, for a four person family with two kids, maybe you’re earning around $30,000 a year, the Canada Child Benefit could provide an additional $10,000 in income. What we found though here in Hamilton though in many other communities is that families aren’t filing their taxes, low income families in particular and they often don’t know about these entitlements and these benefits.

So, we’re trying to launch a campaign awareness around that and that includes having free community tax filing clinics available. And that’s something we’ve been rolling out over the last couple of months and want to continue to do. Just to ensure that low income families do have that financial security. So, if they’re not getting everything they’re entitled to get, maybe that’s a viable alternative to payday loans and going into deeper debt as well.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah and as you’re saying there are solutions out there already. But if people aren’t aware of them, how can they avail themselves to them and obviously in our own company we deal with people who have a lot of debt. And a lot of the times before coming to see us they’ve gone to a payday loan place as a last ditch effort to make ends meet. Or they’ve racked up credit cards or whatever. And in a lot of cases well if they’d come in and, you know, for example filed a consumer proposal and dealt all their debt, their income is sufficient to pay their living expenses. There are options for dealing with things like that too.

Well, I think that’s a great way to end it. We’ve covered a lot of different areas here. Tell us how people can find your organization and you in particular.

Tom Cooper: Yeah, thanks Doug. So, we’re online at www.hamiltonpoverty.ca and if you want to find out more about the Ontario Living Wage Network, there’s a website for that as well. It’s ontariolivingwage.ca

Doug Hoyes: Excellent and I will put links to all of that in the show notes so that people can go and click through to it. Tell them what your Twitter handle is too.

Tom Cooper: I am Tom Coopster.

Doug Hoyes: Tom Coopster. So, Tom’s also got great stuff in Twitter. So, if you like your information in really short bites and then that’s a good way to do it too, great, thanks very much for being here today Tom.

Tom Cooper: Thanks Doug, pleasure.

Doug Hoyes: It was great to have you. So, that’s our show for today. As I said I’ll put full show notes including links to everything we talked about today and the full transcript and a link to the YouTube video that’s recording over at hoyes.com that’s h-o-y-e-s-dot-com. If you enjoy the show it would really help if you leave a review over at iTunes or a comment on YouTube. That helps get the word out. Thanks for listening. Until next week I’m Doug Hoyes. That was Debt Free in 30.

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