Dear Colleagues, 

Around various tables we have been having open conversations about how communities are beginning to plan for recovery. 

Discussing that the “old normal” was not meeting the basic needs of so many individuals and families we work with, therefore the ‘new normal’ needs to not only function under ongoing pandemic conditions but it needs to address pre-COVID19 issues.   

On a recent Mid-Ontario Rural Convenor Call for Poverty Roundtables (hosted by Tamarack), we had an open conversation about how rural Ontario communities are beginning to plan for recovery and seek to build a “new normal”. 5 highlights from our discussion were:

  • Everyone is doing things a bit differently, but we are all partnering in community recovery. Examples include: researching gaps and exploring our strengths for long-term planning; and supporting food security, housing, and social service operations in recovery. 
  • The collaborative nature of rural communities has been a real strength in the COVID-19 response, as people have been working in this way for longer. 
  • Some food banks are adapting and expanding to larger community spaces and emergency services. How do we sustain these operations once COVID19 government funding to individuals and organizations runs out and volunteer drivers go back to work? 
  • How do we reallocate new pop-up efforts in the food system so they strengthen the current supports, without discouraging them from what they had wanted to do? 
  • The major issues we will need to tackle are likely still the same things – they pre-dated and will continue to exist beyond COVID-19 (ex. transportation, housing and technology access).

There are many resources to assist us in re-opening and information on the recovery phase from a health and economic perspective. 

  • Reopening Grey Bruce and Ontario: effective Friday, June 12, the province will increase the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people across the province.
  • Grey Bruce has moved to Re-opening Stage 2 
    • This allows the reopening of places of worship and a list of businesses, including restaurants (outdoor patios), hair salons and malls. 
    • It also allows child care centres and day camps to open. Both play an integral role in parents’ ability to return to the workforce. Strict public health regulations are being put in place for each service provider to meet the standards of care required. It will take time to ramp up logistics and safety protocols. In addition, we know that many daycare centres and day camps run out of public schools. And schools are currently closed. 
  • The COVID-19 section of the Grey Bruce Public Health website has recently beenupdated. It includes general COVID-19 information, inquiries, and resourcesinformation for health care providers and information on the recovery phase. 
  • Greater community engagement still requires us to maintain physical distancing during day-to-day activities, including with those in group gatherings. The Grey Bruce Health Unit reminds everyone that wearing a face covering is critical to decreasing the risk of COVID-19 spread when personal distancing is not possible.   
  • Dr. Ian Arra, strongly recommends: 
    • Retail employees wear cloth masks or other non-medical face coverings. 
    • Patrons at retail settings wear cloth masks or other non-medical face coverings  
  • The Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee wants to hear directly from people and organizations from all regions and sectors to help inform the next steps in Ontario’s Action Plan in response to COVID-19. You can provide your input here.     

FOOD SUPPORTS 

  • Food Bank Usage in Grey Bruce increased in March/April and has been steady or slight decline in May/June. A recent Food Banks Canada Survey of 30-40 Food Bankswith lower numbers attributed this to: 1) people didn’t realize the local food bank was open, 2) anxiety about coming out and felt unsafe to visit, and 3) income supplements from the government has reduced the need. 
  • Community meal programs are on the increase. OSHaRE saw roughly 1,000 additional meals distributed in May. 
  • Some 600+ meals from OSHaRE were delivered to motels with people housed by YMCA housing. 
  • Bulk purchases: 12,000 rolls of toilet paper were distributed to food banks/community food meal programs by the United Way as well as gloves, sanitizer, plastic bags and containers. Remaining stock will be distributed, as needed. The United Way will no longer do bulk purchases and distribution but instead will connect smaller organizations with wholesale distributors since the chain of procurement has been established. 
  • More Good Food Boxes opened in May/June i.e. Dundalk and Kincardine. Port Elgin is expected to re-open in September. We continue to see an increase in the number of boxes ordered. Owen Sound increased from 90 to 130 boxes in May. However, most programs don’t operate in July/August. 

OUTREACH CAMPAIGNS

  • #heretohelpGB:  211 data analyst conducted a call comparison between May 2019 and May 2020, for caller needs related to the topic areas of this campaign. Of the 374 calls to 211 from Bruce Grey residents in May 2020, 18% were related to needs identified in the campaign – this was a 4% increase from May 2019.
  • WES for Youth online: during the month of May, 111 new Ontario youth (ages 13-24) were registered; average age of 17, offered support regarding isolation, anxiousness and post secondary unknowns. Scheduled over 147 hours of counseling serving The Shoreline, Trenton and Ingersol. 

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF): accepting funding applications every Thursday by 4pm. The fund provides financial support to non-profits/charities adapting their frontline services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including to cover staffing or resource needs, purchase assistance and more. Funding will be for programming starting in July 2020 to March 2021. Funding will be issued on an ongoing basis through July 2020, as funds permit. First Nation and Indigenous communities are eligible to apply. Visit Community Foundation Grey Bruce and United Way of Bruce Grey or contact Stuart Reid, Executive Director CFGB, 519-371-7203 and Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director UWBG, 519-376-1560
  • Grey County and Bruce County Housing Emergency Fund
  • Applications for Stage 2 of the Local Food Infrastructure Fund (LFIF) – a five-year, $50 million initiative ending March 31, 2024. The program is part of the Government of Canada’s Food Policy which is Canada’s roadmap for a healthier and more sustainable food system in Canada. The LFIF objective is to strengthen food systems and to facilitate access to safe and nutritious food for at-risk populations.  

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • YMCA Emergency Housing: As we move into warmer temperatures we are seeing more movement of people into the area and new tent encampments. YMCA Housing is mapping encampments and working in partnership with Safe ‘N Sound and the police to support outreach activities.  
  • With some transportation services not operating i.e. Greyhound, housing partners are challenged with finding affordable transportation for people where housing is available or when people choose to return to a different community.  
  • While the YMCA Housing reports numbers are lower. April 634 nights compared to 343 nights in May. However, people remaining in shelter are staying longer and have much higher, complex needs. Both M’Wikwedong IFC and YMCA Housing continue to see a significant number of Indigenous people. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound and other housing partners continue to see an increase in drug use with a reported 250% increase in the use of needles in March/April compared to last year. Safe ‘N Sound distributed 49 naloxone kits, 37 crack kits, 106 meth kits and 900 needles in May. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound is providing space for COVID19 testing by Public Health amongst its homeless/drop-in population as well as anyone who wants to access the service this week.   
  • The Women’s Centre is working with strict quarantine protocols and newcomers must be quarantined upon entry. Some women and families are staying in hotels before entering the quarantine unit in the shelter before moving into another room. The shelter is looking at temporary alternative cooking arrangements so that more women/families can access cooking facilities.   

INCOME SUPPORTS 

  • CERB Payments: Over 8 million Canadians claimed the benefit, according to Statistics Canada, despite data showing that only 5.5 million were jobless or had their hours slashed in the workplace. 
  • The Act Respecting Additional COVID-19 Measures would end payments to those who “fail to return to work when it is reasonable to do so and the employer makes a request for their return; fail to resume self-employment when it is reasonable to do so; or decline a reasonable job offer when they are able to work.”
  • Penalties could range from six months jail time, to fines of $5,000 and additional charges of “up to three times the amount claimed by fraud,” for a potential maximum of $24,000.
  • Concerns have been raised about ODSP clients who have received CERB and might have to make repayments. ODSP has received instructions that clients must pay back the full amount to CRA despite the fact that a portion has been clawbacked by ODSP at the time of payment. This leaves people on ODSP with a large debt to repay. Questions are being raised on a better way of repayments that don’t negatively impact ODSP clients. 
  • South Ontario Experience of Basic Income: McMaster University and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction released a new report in March 2020 and today participants of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot were speaking to the members of the Senate.  
  • Basic Income & Gender Equity webinar: Gender equality is still far from being realized. In terms of economic parity, the World Economic Forum ranked women and girls in Canada 30 out of 153 countries this year. Now, COVID-19 is amplifying the fact that women are over-represented in precarious and low-wage work, are still the family’s unpaid primary caregivers, and are susceptible to domestic violence. Tamarack Institute and Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction are presenting Learn more and register here  onJune 18, 12-1pm. 
  • Tamarack Institute has also a Basic Income Resource Library.  

NEWCOMER SUPPORTS

  • The Rural Pathways project (United Way of Bruce Grey and Welcoming Communities Grey Bruce) is currently looking for visible minority newcomer and immigrant women to test some online skill-building workshops that address employment barriers. 
  • An online survey / pre-registration is being conducted in June to find out the best days and times for the women to participate. Please share this link with the women who you think may be interested in testing the workshops:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/skill-building-workshops-survey.
  • The online skill-building workshops be testing are:
  1. Zoom Skills: How to use Zoom for learning, working and connecting with friends and families (one 75-minute session)
  2. Overcoming Social Barriers to Employment:  Learn how to identify and address cultural barriers and discrimination, and your rights in Canadian workplaces (one 75-minute session)
  3. Overcoming Language Barriers:  Learn how to overcome language barriers and access English learning resources (one 75-minute session)
  4. Get Your Qualifications and Experience Recognized: Learn how to have your overseas education, skills and work experiences recognized in Canada (one 75-minute session)
  5. in-depth skill-building workshop on Language Barriers (four 75-minute sessions over four consecutive weeks)
  • If any women have language barriers, Rural Pathways may be able to connect them with volunteer translators to assist them in completing the survey. Our volunteer translators are also available to assist newcomers and immigrants in working with service providers.   

Stay well, Jill 

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