Dear Colleagues, 


We continue to see some incredible collaboration and collective response to immediate needs for food, shelter and income support by partners around the Poverty Task Force table. 


Funding from the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments is targeting vulnerable populations and we continue to provide feedback on gaps as well as successful partnerships. Our social safety net has holes and we know it was not catching everyone prior to this pandemic so we continue to examine our Pandemic emergency response in terms of sustainability and post-pandemic policies and delivering of services. 


It is our responsibility to ensure that more robust policies, structures and sustainable funding are in place to 1) protect our local food system, 2) provide jobs with a living wage, 3) eliminate precarious work and 4) ensure people have affordable homes and wraparound services to stay housed  – as a start. 

  • A recent webinar hosted by Mike Schreiner, Green Party of Canada on Rethinking Food Security After COVID-19 asked “what cracks in our food system have been exposed under COVID19?” 
  • Ashleigh Weeden shares some insights on her work with University of Guelph examining the impact of COVID19 on Rural Communities.  This is part of her research with the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation.   Read more
  • The Rural Ontario Institute has prepared a Specal Fact Sheet Edition on Rural Employment.  The losses in Rural and Small Town Areas have only been tracking at half that of the Larger Urban Centres.  The findings show that just like Canada as a whole rural Ontario females are experiencing the brunt of the job loss more than are rural men.  This likely reflects both their sectoral and occupational roles. Read more
  • Bruce County Council has endorsed a $1.75 million investment in grants and loans to support local businesses over the next two years. Details around the components of the “Support the Bruce: Business Sustainability Fund” – unveiled in collaboration with Bruce County’s Economic Task Force – will be finalized and announced in the coming weeks.

FOOD SUPPORTS

  • The Federal government announced a $50 million surplus food purchase program  last week. The government indicated it would “start the conversation” with food security organizations that already benefit from $100 million in extra funding announced earlier this spring: Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest (Canada’s largest food rescue organization), Community Food Centres Canada, the Breakfast Club of Canada and the Salvation Army. This prompted us to discuss what the implications are for our local econony and food system including the need for a Food Policy Council.  
  • Community Gardens are opening up across Grey Bruce. Gardens have developed User Policies and exchanged best practices based on the Public Health Guidelines during our bi-weekly Food Security Action Group meetings. 
  • Food Banks have increased their support and distribution network led by The Salvation Army Owen Sound. 
    • The Salvation Army is providing food for some 900 families. 
    • Feed Ontario has recently distributed food hampers to its members. Golden Town Outreach in Meaford distributed some 340 hampers. 
    • CMHA – Owen Sound provided brunch for 30-40 people/day and provides baked goods for OSHaRE.
    • OSHaRE has provided 11,000 meals since April.  
    • St. Aidan’s provided 400 frozen meals last week. 
    • The Bleeding Carrot is providing vegetarian meals to Safe ‘N Sound and the Women’s Centre the Compassion on the Street program. 
  • The Chippewas of Nawash donated fresh whitefish and salmon to food banks in the area and Toronto. Feeding hundreds of people, keeping local fishing families employed, and maintaining the Traditional industry of commercial fishing. 
    • (200 lbs of fillets to the Wiarton Salvation Army Food Bank, 200 lbs of fillets to the M’Wikwedong Native Cultural Resource Centre, 500 lbs of fillets to the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, 200 lbs of fillets to the Saugeen First Nation Food Bank and 2,500 lbs of fillets to the Chippewas of Nawash Good Food Bank.
  • COVID19 Community Food Program Emergency Plans were discussed at today’s Food Security Action Group meeting.  
    • Some organizations have emergency plans in place in case of an outbreak and it is recommended that all organizations develop a plan. We examined the role of the larger Food Banks to provide satellite Food Banks. This this will need to be built into organizational agreements and Emergency Plans. 
    • The volunteer base for most of our community food programs are seniors. Different strategies have been taken by various organizations to protect their senior volunteers.  But we know that many remain on the frontlines for the Pandemic response. We have yet to examine the impact of volunteer shortage of seniors but will do more work on this.  
  • Discussions were held on Considerations for the Public Wearing Masks and whether we should be distributing cloth or medical masks to clients.  Bruce Power distributed medical masks to staff/volunteers that enable service delivery. However, organizations have had mixed experiences with the quality of donated masks and are seeing clients with well-used masks. There is a need to examine whether organizations will distribute to vulnerable clients.

SUPPORTS FOR SENIORS
Canadian seniors are at great risk of poor health outcomes due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Vulnerable seniors, such as those living in social isolation or poverty, are at even greater risk. 

  • Seniors will be receiving a one-time payment of up to $500 to help offset any increases in the cost of living due to COVID-19.
  • Seniors who qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) will be eligible for a one-time, tax-free payment of $300, and those eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will get an extra $200.  
  • Those eligible for both will receive $500.  
  • Seniors who already are receiving OAS and GIS will receive the one-time benefit automatically; they will not be required to apply for it.  
  • The direct support will amount to $2.5 billion and are expected to help 6.7 million older Canadians.  
  • A one-time special payment through the GST credit. 
  • The reduction of minimum withdrawals from registered retirement income funds by 25 per cent in 2020.  
  • New Horizons for Seniors funding has translated into over 1,000 health & hygiene hampers for seniors have been prepared in a coordinated effort between the United Way of BG and many partners.  
  • Meals on Wheels/Frozen Meal programs
    • Home & Community Support Services are delivering Meals on Wheels provides home meals in 17 communities across Grey Bruce, M-F and have seen an incredible unsolicited corporate donations.
    • South East Grey Community Health Centre and St. Aidan’s are providing frozen meals.    
  • Another $20 million on the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which funds various community projects for seniors was announced this week. 
  • COVID19 Guidelines for delivering food to Seniors or Immunocompromised 

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • The bi-weekly Homelessness & COVID19 continues to focus on logistics, support and addressing immediate needs.  New connections were made with the Women’s Centre Grey Bruce to provide meals. The Women’s Centre is working with some 20 individuals and families to stay at the shelter while maintaining social distancing. Additional individuals or families fleeing violence are being housed in hotels. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound has supported 14 individuals with housing needs; 10 of those identified as Indigenous. Just a reminder to everyone that Safe ‘N Sound provides a Transitional Housing Program with housing and wraparound servies. However, this is not a shelter. 
  • YMCA Housing has sheltered 21 households (42 people) for 211 nights. Youth numbers are up and they are also working with seniors. They have connected with the Geriactic Assessement Team. 
  • SOAHAC and M’Wikwedong Housing Outreach Workers continue to work with many families. Overall, seeing more policy involvement with clients and the need for mental health/hospital services. 
  • It was noted that for many Indigenous people – high unemployment rates, overcrowding in houses, housing-related stress, suicide, police involvement and mental health issues – is pre-pandemic conditions. The pandemic is making a bad situation worse. Thus the need to examine  systemic, poverty-related structural change.  

YOUTH SUPPORTS  

  • Vpi Working Solutions  employment and youth supports – have gone to online services offered via telephone/virtual meetings. 
  • Youth Job Connect stating June 1st. for youth between the ages of 15-29. Call for more details 519-881-4900   
  • Students can apply for new hardship bursuries at Georgian College. The COVID Hardship Bursary will be split equally among eligible domestic and international students who are enrolled in a regular, full-time postsecondary program for the summer semester and demonstrate an urgent financial need.

Stay well, Jill 

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