Thank you. That's a very good question, and it's a question legal aid is still struggling with.
I am here today speaking as an individual and not representing legal aid, but I can tell you the federal government has just announced that the funding to all legal aid plans across Canada will remain the same as last year's level, which was just over $11 million. We certainly expect from Legal Aid Ontario's perspective...Ontario receives 60% of all refugee claims in Canada, so we do both a merit screening as well as a financial screening.
Just to give you an illustration, to qualify financially for legal aid assistance, a single person has to earn $10,800 a year. If you earn $12,000 a year, so $1,000 a month, which would qualify as working poor, you do not qualify for our services.
For two people, I think it's $13,450, just under $13,500 for two people, if the husband and wife were to come and make a claim for refugee status. To be covered you would have to earn less than that, so that's the first financial eligibility.
The next hurdle to obtaining legal aid is that there's a merit screening. Legal aid has to decide whether it warrants the expenditure of public funds, because we also have obligations to Canadian taxpayers, and we have a responsibility to use the moneys we receive from the government effectively and efficiently. The first part of that is to do a merit screening.
Now, although we've been told our budget is going to remain the same, we're going to be asked to do more. As you alluded to, there's an additional layer in this process, the Refugee Appeal Division, which did not exist previously and which we have not been given any new funding for. It means that legal aid is going to have to do a lot more and be a lot more creative in the delivery of services using the same amount of money.