Ontario plans to roll out debit cards for social assistance payments
A person inserts a debit card into an ATM in Pittsburgh in this Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 file photo. (AP / Gene J. Puskar)
TORONTO -- People who receive welfare and disability support cheques in Ontario will be getting reloadable payment cards, similar to debit cards.
The Ontario government says the initiative is still in the planning stages as they are looking at design, development of technology and other business requirements.
The card program will be for people receiving social assistance who don't get their payments through direct deposit, intended for people who don't have or are not able to obtain a bank account.
The Community and Social Services Ministry says it will affect fewer than 100,000 of the 570,000 families receiving social assistance.
A spokeswoman says it's intended to increase convenience for people on social assistance and reduce their reliance on cheque-cashing services.
Amber Anderson says like any other payment method with those programs, there would be no restrictions on how people use their money.
NDP critic Cindy Forster says the government shouldn't be introducing new social assistance technology when there are so many problems with the current system.
Since late last year, the new $240-million Social Assistance Management System has been experiencing issues, notably queuing up $20 million in welfare and disability support overpayments in December. The government announced Thursday it is putting another $5 million toward costs associated with the SAMS issues at the local offices, such as overtime.
"Why introduce something new that could fail when we still have many, many problems in the current system and a backlog in the system," Forster said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers was selected earlier this month as an independent adviser to help with SAMS and is expected to provide an interim report by the end of March.