This means that artists who are on OW or ODSP and receive an arts grant will no longer have the money deducted from their monthly benefits, and will not have to risk becoming ineligible for continuing support from these programs. This important change will give artists on ODSP or OW the ability to pursue the creation of their art without fear of losing their monthly income and the health and other benefits that ODSP and OW provide. It will also reduce the huge administrative burden that artists previously faced with reporting the funds to ODSP or OW.
The change will eliminate the disincentive that many artists on ODSP or OW used to face to even apply for an arts grant. It will also open up new opportunities for artists on ODSP or OW to make their art and to contribute to the vibrancy of the cultural life of their communities, the province and the country.
Now that many arts funders in Ontario have specific grants for artists who have disabilities, this change by MCSS will be of particular benefit to artists who are on ODSP.
The only exception is that any funds in an arts grant that are specifically intended to pay for living costs will not be exempt. Those amounts will be deducted from monthly ODSP and OW benefits and will count as assets. But the impact will be lessened because the new rules include pro-rating those funds over the entire duration of the arts grant. As a result, artists will be much less likely to be cut off ODSP or OW in the month after they receive their arts grant, but instead will see their regular monthly benefits lowered over the entire period of time that the arts grant is intended to cover.
What does this mean for me as an artist?
If you are an artist on ODSP or OW and you receive an arts grant, you will have to report the money to your caseworker. You should do this by giving your caseworker a copy of the Notification Letter that you receive from the funding agency.
The Notification Letter should state that the grant you received is intended to support the project that you outlined in your application. It should also state whether or not the grant includes any funds specifically intended to cover living expenses, as well as how much of the grant is for that purpose. That amount will be deducted from your ODSP or OW benefits and counted as an asset. If your Notification letter does not have one of these statements, contact the funding agency to ask them to re-issue it with the statement.
The ODSP and Arts Grants Coalition (see below) is currently updating its pamphlet about arts grants, which will have more information about this change for artists on ODSP and OW. The pamphlet will be available from the websites of the member organizations of the coalition.