What's Wrong with Earmarked Debit Cards for Social Assistance Recipients

Submitted by John Stapleton on January 31, 2013 - 9:15am

A list of 10 things that are wrong with debit cards for Ontario's social assistance recipients

A list of 10 things that are wrong with debit cards for Ontario's social assistance recipients

Cross-posted from my website where you can find other blogs and policy information: http://openpolicyontario.com

What’s wrong with debit cards for social assistance recipients? 

Nothing as long as they are not earmarked!

What’s wrong with restrictions on debit cards e.g. no liquor or cellphones?

10 things that are wrong

1. The main reason is that the desired outcome of better spending of funds would simply not occur - no evidence is available that it would change spending patterns.

2. There would be a black market for cards just like food stamps in the US – they would be sold off at discounts driving taxpayer dollars into the hands of  card dealers. Is that what the taxpayer wants?

3. Restricting inadequate funds for necessities would mean that people may not be able to pay the rent and therefore get evicted

4. A system with 800 rules would be burdened with at least 10 more rules and likely closer to 50.

5. The root causes of questionable spending e.g. addiction, lack of education would remain unaddressed and unsolved.

6. In programs that are looking to move away from a heavy administrative load, a whole new layer of administration would be required.

7. No other income security program nor any other income sources like wages are similarly designated or earmarked. Why would misspending of income be restricted to social assistance recipients whose incomes are the lowest with the least opportunity for misspending in the first place.

8. A nutritious diet cost at least $260 a month. If $260 was earmarked for food, thousands of recipients would become homeless as they would not be able to pay their rents.

9. Prevention of abuse of funds presupposes that poor spending habits should be pathologized. If so, who among us has never misspent money ? Should we have society wide sanctions?

10. If LCBO or gambling is restricted, why do we have government funded advertising for the LCBO and OLGC to promote the spending we are trying to stop?

What’s wrong with cutting benefits to long term recipients?

Nothing if your goal is to increase starvation.

What’s wrong with it?

10 Observations:

1. Historically, rates for longer term recipients were increased because of the need to replace clothing, utensils etc., something that you would not require (in theory) in an emergency.

2. How does taking food off someone’s plate make them more employable? Especially the plates of children (if the policy were to apply with recipients with kids).

3. The system is now awash in incentives as a full time minimum wage job in fast food pays $17 k and social assistance pays $7,272. Anyone who can make this trade-off would pick work. Will paying less social assistance make that job less elusive?

4. It would take a 56% rate increase to get (single) rates back to where they were in 1993, the last year in which there was a real increase in social assistance incomes. Arguably the reductions the PC’s are talking about have already taken place. Job done.  Mission accomplished! (And they apply to all recipients – why wait to cut?)

5. Social assistance caseloads have already begun to moderate – what’s the big concern?

6. We wanted people to discuss Brighter Prospects – this will certainly help achieve that goal but do we want to discuss how to cut more?

7. The people receiving social assistance the longest usually are the most vulnerable. Presumably giving them less will allow them to strengthen themselves?

8. Nowhere in the legislation are there time restrictions on receipt of benefits.

9. Perhaps using the same logic we could reduce Old Age Security to seniors over age 90?

10. Best of all – getting social policy advice from the PC’s is like getting marriage tips from the Kardashians.