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Ontario gave parents more than $1 billion in cash over two years.  This is where the money went

Ontario gave parents more than $1 billion in cash over two years. This is where the money went

During the pandemic, the Ontario government began giving cash to parents to help offset the cost of learning at home while schools were closed.

Premier Doug Ford would later offer multiple versions of this program over the years, offering parents hundreds of dollars for tutoring in an effort to help children “catch up” on their education.

But since 2020, hundreds of parents have complained that they couldn’t access those funds.

More than three million applications were received during the first three iterations of the program, generating more than $1.1 billion in payments.

Data obtained by the Freedom of Information Request shows where the money from those first three programs went.

The prime minister announced the first program, Support for Families, in 2020, offering direct deposit of $200 per child age 12 and under, or $250 for special needs dependents under age 21.

Just over 2,600 parents applied for this program, totaling approximately $548,300 in payments.

The area with the highest number of applicants was Sault Ste. Marie, with about $14,600 in cash paid to parents.

The Brampton, Toronto and Milton areas were among the five regions that earned the most payments. This could be affected by the density and number of children in each region.

The second round of payments, under the Student Support program, covered applications between November 2020 and February 2021.

This time, more than 1.1 million parents applied, costing the government more than $228 million.

Milton’s parents got the most cash, with more than $2.6 million paid out. This was followed by parents from Brampton and Mississauga.

When the third version of parent payments was offered, parents knew how to get their money’s worth. More than 2.1 million parents applied for the payments, costing the government more than $8.8 million.

Ontario’s COVID-19 child benefit also offered parents a little more money: around $400 per child and up to $500 per child with special needs.

The areas that had the most applications and therefore received the most money were again Milton, Brampton, Mississauga and Barrie.

Government officials say the fourth round of payments, which took place between October 2022 and March 2023, brought the total number of applications to 5.9 million. About $1.6 billion in cash was sent to parents across the four programs.

Zip codes are not used as an identifying factor in payments

It is important to note that the data provided to CTV News Toronto is incomplete. There were 468 entries that included zip codes that did not exist in Ontario.

These entries represent more than $3 million in the first three shows.

Government officials said ZIP codes were not used as identifying factors in the application and were only verified if a parent requested payment by mail instead of direct deposit.

Instead, they compared the child’s education figure to the school boards.

“The ministry used trusted data sources, including the Ontario Education Number and birth registration, to help validate applications and mitigate the risk of potential fraudulent or duplicate submissions,” a Ministry of Education spokesperson said.

“A zip code was verified for accuracy for applicants who opted to receive their payments by mail.”

The Ontario Ombudsman is currently investigating the premier’s decision to give money to parents directly, saying it received about 200 complaints from parents who were denied payments because “someone else had claimed the money first.”

According to the Ombudsman, some parents learned that a relative who was not responsible for a child had claimed the money and there was no recourse to recover it.

“We heard disturbing accounts from parents who were not only denied funding for children in their care, but were not told who was receiving the payments,” Ombudsman Paul Dube said in a statement. “People have complained about this problem to us through successive iterations of these programs, and the latest version is probably not the last.”

The Ministry of Education said the discrepancy with postcodes would have no impact on these complaints as it was not used to determine who received payments.

The online application asks parents to provide the name of the child’s school, their date of birth, and their preferred payment method.

The government website specifies that only one parent or guardian can apply per student.

“It is up to the child’s parent or guardian to determine who will apply,” the website says. “We are not involved in these decisions and will not accept duplicate applications.”