Report: Over 20,000 Ontarians receive $55 million through tax filing and other benefits

15 November 2017
Over 20,000 Ontarians have received financial empowerment services and accessed $55 million in income tax refunds and other income benefits thanks to the Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) Program, according to a new report from Prosper Canada. In 2015 the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) provided funding for Prosper Canada to replicate and expand the FEPS program from the three Toronto neighbourhoods in which it was being offered, to two additional Ontario communities over two years. 
 
Developed by West Neighbourhood House (West NH), the FEPS program helps Ontarians living on low incomes to improve their financial situation by accessing government income transfers and building their capacity for financial security. To achieve these outcomes the FEPS sites provide:
 
  • One-on-one financial problem solving sessions,
  • Free tax clinics,
  • Workshops on financial empowerment topics, and
  • Community outreach events.
The sites that delivered the FEPS program from 2015 to 2017 were:
 
  • West NH, Toronto
  • Agincourt Community Services Association (ACSA), Toronto
  • Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre (JFC), Toronto
  • EBO Financial Education Centre/Centre d’éducation financière (EBO), Ottawa*
  • The Working Centre (TWC), Kitchener 
The FEPS sites, known as the FEPS Collaborative, also advocate for poverty reduction policies at the provincial and federal levels and expand partnerships locally to address the financial issues facing their communities.
 
A third party evaluation conducted in early 2017 assessed the FEPS program on its relevance for people with complex financial problems; effectiveness to impact an individual’s financial situation; appropriateness to meet the needs of diverse groups; and efficiency of program delivery. The program exceeded all four objectives. 
 
The report from Prosper Canada also found that:
 
  • FEPS is about more than free tax filing. Problem-solving sessions helped participants resolve unresolved tax and benefit issues which had been posing barriers to income assistance and financial inclusion.
  • Participants that attended multiple sessions addressed more complex issues. While most participants only attend one session, those that attend multiple sessions address more difficult and long standing issues.
  • FEPS responds to the needs of newcomers. FEPS sites are important partners in helping newcomers navigate Canada’s tax and benefits systems.
Due to the program’s success, MCSS extended program funding to 2021 with the intent to evaluate longer-term participant outcomes. To learn more about the FEPS model read the final report on the two-year Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving Program or a summary of the FEPS Evaluation Report.
 
*EBO is now part of the Ontario Financial Empowerment Champions project.