Province provides $551,100 to Waterloo’s Low Income transit program

Photo by Qaio Liu
Photo by Qiao Liu

On Nov. 8, the province of Ontario announced that they would be providing $551,100 in funding to Waterloo’s Low Income Transit Program. The money will come from the Ontario Poverty Reduction Fund.

“The local poverty reduction fund will see more than $16 million going to 30 projects across Ontario. These projects focus on community partnerships and include third-party evaluation with the goal of identifying innovative local solutions,” said Daiene Vernile, MPP for Kitchener-Centre, via email.

The Low-Income Transit Program will aim to improve the quality of life for those living in low-income households.

The program is looking to break the cycle of poverty and help low-income families move towards more income security.

“This community approach to studying poverty is both collaborative and compassionate,” said Vernile in a recent press release on her website.

One of the ways Waterloo is looking to support those in need is through discounted transit fare products. The region currently provides nearly 1,800 discounted adult bus passes each month to people below a low-income threshold. However, the wait list is upwards of 1,000 people who are each in dire  need of support.

This prompted Waterloo Region to apply to the province for monetary aid that would allow for a thorough investigation.

The pilot study will look to answer questions such as who is using the passes, how frequently and where they are going.

“Applicants may qualify for TRIP [The Transportation for Reduced Incomes Program] if their income falls below the low income cut-off as determined by Statistics Canada. If they do qualify, they can apply through the Working Centre, in Kitchener or Lutherwood, [or] in Cambridge. Once the applicant is approved, agency staff will assist them through any remaining steps,” said Vernile.

The aim of this Waterloo pilot study is to better match the passes offered to how they’re being used, which will free up more money to be put back into the program for the future.

In a recent press release, Douglas Bartholomew-Saunders, commissioner of social services for Waterloo Region, pointed out that, “Ultimately, it’s more people served.”

The data gathered from this program will provide the necessary knowledge to support future poverty reduction programs across the province.

“These studies allow us to tailor current and future programs to the day-to-day needs and requirements of low-income families across the region. This will not only benefit Waterloo Region, but programs right across Ontario,” said Vernile.

The recent funding also opens the door for future commitment from the province towards Waterloo’s Low Income Transit Program.

“[The Low Income Transit Program] does clearly indicate where our province’s priorities are. With this funding, our government is indicating a dedication to helping low income families throughout our province, and a strong acknowledgement of the importance of transit in our community,” said Vernile.

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