Soaring gas prices affecting services to Ottawa’s most vulnerable

The sky-rocketing price at the pumps continues to impact Ottawa drivers, but it is having a major impact on organizations that depend on driving to deliver services for the city’s most vulnerable

“Gas prices are potentially very damaging to our operation,” says Baudouin St-Cyr with Meals on Wheels Ottawa.

The organization purchases and delivers roughly 120,000 meals per year. Meals are delivered by volunteers who are eligible for mileage reimbursement. Routes range approximately 25 to 35 kilometers.

St-Cyr says food costs have been increasing as well as gas, but the recent spike tied to the Russian invasion in Ukraine, “is going to hit home for Meals on Wheels for sure.”

Many volunteers donate back the reimbursement. St-Cyr worries because of gas prices it “will become too steep and they will have start retaining the reimbursement and for many of them they will have to have more reimbursement because the increase is just so dramatic – this is not in our budget obviously. ”

St-Cyr says it is still too early to tell how much of a hole gas price will put in their budget.

The organization is advocating to Ontario Health and the provincial government to increase the cost of living to “reflect the true cost of inflation.”

“It will create pressures and it will have impact down the line next fiscal year,” St-Cyr says. “We have a budget for reimbursement for next year…we are going to have to look at putting extra money in that pot, which means we are robbing Peter to pay Paul, we are going to have to find it somewhere else.”

The Good Companions Seniors Center is also feeling the pinch from high gas prices. The Center helps vulnerable seniors get to medical or other appointments. It also provides services like meal delivery.

“We can’t stop providing transportation, but the impact is very big on the bottom line,” says executive director Monique Doolitle-Romas. “We are a non-for-profit, and we want to break even, but there is just no way to recover those extra costs.”

The latest jump in gas prices has been a blow to the budget. Doolittle-Romas says, “The extra costs are being covered by fundraising dollars which is truly helping us, and will get us through to the end of March.”

The center says it will do whatever is necessary and will not be cutting back on services. “I am concerned. We need to provide services. We were closed for almost a year and half because of the pandemic and that was extended because of the situation in downtown Ottawa,” says Doolitle-Romas.

“We are running a fine line financially, things are tight,” she adds.

“We will continue to provide transportation despite the cost, and we will be there for seniors, we have to find a way to absorb it or find a way to cover the cost an additional way.”

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