Ontario to replace welfare cheques with debit cards

Aims to remove stigma of receiving social assistance

The Ontario government is trying to remove the stigma associated with welfare cheques.

Those receiving social assistance province-wide will be given debit cards instead of cheques. The change is supposed to rid recipients of the stigma of relying on government aid, while saving them any would-be cheque-cashing fees.

While the new system will mimic one already used in Toronto, the provincial brass has not yet revealed the costs of the program, nor when it will be implemented.

According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, 82 per cent of those receiving Ontario Works welfare and 85 per centof those on the Ontario Disability Support Program get their checques by direct deposit.

Amber Anderson, press secretary for Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek, said there would be no restrictions on what recipients could buy with the funds. She added the assisted would not have to visit any office, that the funds would instead be loaded electronically on their cards. However, recipients living in isolated areas would still be paid via cheque.

According to a city staff report, Toronto has saved $2.5 million a year since switching to debit cards three years ago. In 2013, city staff estimated a recipient of $599 per month could save up to $250 a year in cheque-cashing fees.

The Ontario government currently spends over $7 billion a year in assistance.