Welfare office out of money

The district’s welfare office is warning it may have to close because it doesn’t have the money to pay its March bills–much less make payments to social assistance recipients.
That could leave some 40 individuals and families without cheques this month. And the Rainy River District Ontario Works said the province’s “download” of services was to blame.
“We have no money for welfare. We have no money for payroll,” said chairwoman Emily Watson, with the office here employs six full-time staff. “And we’ve used up all our money and our reserves.
“We are going to have to close down if we don’t have any money.”
She admitted they were in the same boat as the Northwestern Health Unit, only a little more basic–if the welfare office didn’t see dollars, its clients wouldn’t be able to pay rent or buy food.
“We haven’t issued any cheques since Friday,” director Dave Kozar said, noting 17 clients so, as well as suppliers, haven’t received payment.
With the “download” of services, the office is responsible for “Ontario Works,” Family Benefits Allowance, and paying the bill for child care. As well, it will pay the social housing bill starting in June.
That drove its annual budget up to $3.5 million for 1998, with $1.7 million of that not expected until June when it takes on social housing.
The province used to advance and reimburse the office for its claims, and that was how the office got by. But Kozar noted that had stopped. Their last cheque from the province came back in October.
“I knew we were going to have a problem. I just didn’t think it was going to be this bad,” he admitted.
Meanwhile, Kozar hoped to find out today whether the bank would approve a larger line of credit. He also noted district municipalities were sympathetic to their plight, with “Ontario Works” just now sending out its first quarterly bills.
“We don’t have our first levy from the municipalities until the end of the month,” Kozar said, with municipalities also are just sending out their interim tax bills.
“That’s if they can pay it.”
Fort Frances council approved paying its $274,000 instalment Monday night but that cheque wasn’t expected to be written until the end of the month.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said he made a few calls, and found the Ministry of Community and Social Services had released $100,000 for the office here Friday. He expected that money to arrive today.
And the mayor assured the town probably would cut a cheque before the March 31 deadline to help the office meet its costs.
“We’ll probably pay them a portion of [the $274,000],” he said yesterday.