FEPS program is transforming lives

2 December 2016
Author: Maya Ramchandani
The right support and advice can make all the difference for people living on low incomes
 
The Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) program provides much needed money management support to people living on low incomes. With programs now running at five sites in Ontario, the program provides advocacy and problem solving services as well as financial education to help individuals increase their money management knowledge and skills so they can make good financial decisions. 
 
A popular service FEPS program sites provide are free tax clinics to support people living on a low incomes to file their taxes and receive benefits they are eligible for through government programs.  Failure to file ones taxes excludes them from receiving a multitude of benefits that could help move them out of poverty. To check your province’s tax credits click here
 
The government creates policies and programs to redistribute income equitably across Canada. Tax filing is the entry point to receive these financial supports. Despite that these benefits exist however, those who need them the most are not getting them. A 2006 survey found that tax filing was lower among newcomers with limited English, single person households and those on Ontario Works. Tax credits make a difference, especially for people in the lowest income brackets. For example, tax returns can comprise up to 40 per cent of the income of families living on social assistance in Canada. Even for working class individuals, a single parent family with two children earns an annual income of $29,996 of which $11,852 is granted through tax returns – that’s almost 50 per cent.
 
The Working Centre is a FEPS site located in Waterloo, Ontario. They recently shared a positive experience from a young mother that they served.   
 
How a FEPS tax clinic helped a young mother
 
Anna* first visited The Working Centre’s income tax clinic in 2015. During her visit, Anna shared with a volunteer that she had stopped receiving her GST, Ontario Trillium Benefit and Child Tax Benefit. She stated that she had received a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) suggesting that her recent separation from her partner was part of the reason for the terminated benefits. Anna desperately needed the benefits but was afraid to contact CRA. The volunteer suggested Anna visit one of The Working Centre’s financial specialists.
 
Anna returned the following year for support with filing her 2015 taxes. She had not contacted the financial specialist as encouraged during her first visit because she felt powerless about her situation with CRA. After finishing her 2015 tax return Anna was encouraged to see a FEPS worker and was told that they might be able to help her solve her benefits ordeal with CRA. Within 15 minutes she met with a FEPS worker and explained her situation. Together they called CRA to sort out the issue. Following that pivotal phone call, Anna was granted her entitled benefits, which has made an enormous difference in her life.
 
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*Name has been changed to protect identity.

THE AUTHOR

Maya Ramchandani is a former Intern for the Marketing and Communications department at Prosper Canada. She recently graduated receiving an Honours Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto. She began her Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs degree at the University of British Columbia in the fall of 2016.

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