Pandemic threatens financial livelihood of Toronto families
Recent report reveals that the average salary of a family of four to thrive costs over $100K after tax.

A report recently published by the Wellesley Institute reveals $103,032 to $136,426  to be the average cost after tax for a Toronto family of four to ‘thrive’ in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). These findings raise concerns for Toronto families especially amid the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Maintaining living costs is an incredibly difficult task during the pandemic which has caused Ontario’s economy to suffer a record job loss of 355,000 jobs in the year 2020.

The average middle-aged Toronto citizen earns nearly $27,788 per year before tax. A couple working minimum wage jobs would earn merely $55,575 per year before tax. The upkeep alone (i.e. rent, utilities, equipment, and insurance) for renting a 3-bedroom or 2-bedroom large condominium in Toronto is $26,403 per year and $23,583 per year respectively. These costs do not include the finances required for healthcare, transportation, food and nutrition, physical activity, savings, childcare, and more.

Families with children must adapt quicker to potential job loss and maintain a sense of livelihood during this economic recession. A concurrent report show 54 per cent of families with children suffer greater financial burden than 41 per cent of those who are childless. For instance, multiple middle and upper middle-class families avoided travel and recreation during the past year in favour of maintaining savings. In fact, more than 54 per cent of adults have reported that the economic crisis has taken a toll on their retirement savings and other investments.

For Torontonians living in poverty, this is even more concerning. According to Matti Siemiatycki, associate geography professor at the University of Toronto St. George campus, “The pandemic has disproportionally affected lower-income, racialized, and crowded communities—for example, in the inner suburbs in the northern part of the GTA. It has revealed more clearly our affordable housing crisis, as well as the damaging impacts of precarious employment.” 

As of 2019, 10.1 per cent of Canadians live below the poverty line. Due to the unemployment rates that have resulted from the pandemic, many of these low-income Canadians are struggling to find minimum wage full-time employment. The jobs that are available are in high-risk frontline and service industries. 

Throughout 2020, parents in poverty struggled as various industries were unable to operate and several lower-income individuals, particularly those in the entertainment or public service industries, lost their jobs.

However, local food banks have played a huge role in mitigating the impacts of the pandemic. Over the first four months of Covid-19, nearly 20 per cent of food banks in the province saw an increase in traffic of 54 per cent. As of November 2020, the number of employed adults that visit food banks increased by 8 per cent. 

Similarly, the HALO Trust, a British charity and American non-profit organization, has been directly working with public health departments, the United Nations, along with national and international NGOs to combat the effects of the pandemic. Over the course of the past year and a half, HALO has distributed food, PPE and medical supplies, improved medical services and emergency patient transport, and more.

For students struggling with finances during the pandemic, UTM offers free food from the UTMSU Food Centre and Free Breakfast Wednesdays.

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