Recipients of Ontario Works assistance may lose their free monthly Sault Transit passes if a proposal gets city council approval on Monday night.
Instead, they'll get a half-price social equity transit pass be that will also be supplied to Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients.
About 350,000 free bus rides have been provided under a partnership between the city and the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSMSSAB) that began in 2019.
Now, DSSMSSAB has advised that changes to its employment services funding model mean it can no longer afford the half-million dollars it's been paying annually for transportation and the program must end.
"With the new [half-price] partnership it is anticipated that 25 to 30 per cent can be recovered from Ontario Works program recipients in conjunction with including ODSP clients," says Brent Lamming, the city's director of community services.
"The city will procure and provide passes to Social Services to administer. Social Services has confirmed it will continue to confirm eligible clients and distribute the passes. Operating revenue will be adjusted downwards accordingly for the 2024 budget," Lamming says in a report prepared for Mayor Shoemaker and city councillors.
Similar social equity passes are provided by the following:
- Toronto Transit Commission – Fair Pass offers a 33 per cent discount
- Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission – EquiPass offers approximately half off a pass
- Durham Regional Transit – ACCESS pass and Transit Assistance Program (TAP) is a pay-as-you go model for the first 14 trips of the month up to $45.50, then the remainder of the month is no charge, or with the monthly pass you pay $46 up front (regular pass is $117 for an adult)
- Grand River Transit (Region of Waterloo) – Affordable Transit Program offers a 48 per cent discount
- MiWay (Mississauga Transit) – Affordable Transit Program offers a 50 per cent discount
- Brampton Transit – Affordable Transit Program offers a 50 per cent discount
- Guelph Transit – Affordable bus pass works on a sliding scale by tier (income)
Monday's city council meeting will be live-streamed starting at 5 p.m.