Health equity issues continue to dominate the news and our meetings as we ride this Third Wave. Organizations continue to provide analysis on the Federal Budget 2021 such as the United Way Eastern Ontario and call on the government for more support.
Medical professionals, policy makers and social service organizations are calling for paid sick days programs in Ontario that are universal, fully paid, adequate, permanent, and accessible.
- The Provincial government announced a $500 top up to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). You are eligible if you miss at least 50% of your work week. However, there remains challenges for workers:
- Taking a day or two off for a test or vaccine is not covered.
- Time delays to process and receive payment.
- Workers need 10 permanent sick days with an additional 14 for public health emergencies.
- The Provincial government has subsequently announced the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Program to address part of the challenges. Itwill require employers to provide employees with up to $200 of pay for up to 3 days if they are missing work because of COVID-19.
- Workers who are sick or are experiencing symptoms, who need to get vaccinated or have COVID-19-related mental health issues will qualify for the benefit.
- This program will be retroactive to April 19, 2021 and effective until September 25, 2021, the date the CRSB will expire.
- It will be administered by the WSIB and the provincial government will reimburse employers 100% of the employee’s wage up to $200 a day.
- Employers and their workers can call a dedicated COVID-19 Sick Days Information Centre hotline at 1-888-999-2248 or visit Ontario.ca/COVIDworkerbenefit to get more information and updates about the proposed Ontario COVID-19 paid leave days.
- Non-Emergency Transportation Costs: ICUs are full in the GTA and patients are being moved to any available ICUs in Ontario. Recently, a family in Toronto had to pay $1,062.00 for the return of a loved one who had passed away. For those who are uninsured, this cost along with funeral costs is a difficult one to bear.
- The Province has said they are taking steps to ensure other families don’t endure the same situation. This family will be reimbursed by the government.
- Grey Bruce COVID-19 Vaccine App: a new app has been developed in partnership with the Grey Bruce Health Unit, Bruce Power and NPX Innovation.
- This application is now available free to download from the Google Play and Apple Stores for all mobile devices and tablets. To download, enter ‘gbvaccineapp’ into the search bar. You can also click these hyperlinks from your mobile device to take you directly to the App in the stores.:
- The app aims to help you book your appointment, find locations and provide information on COVID19 and the Grey Bruce Vaccination Plan.
- Keeping Not-For-Profits Connected under COVID: This week, OSHaRE shared over 1,600lbs of food with 8 different community partners across Grey and Bruce County. All of this food came through Food Rescue from local businesses. Thank you to these local businesses – National Grocers (Owen Sound), Zehrs (Owen Sound), Shoppers Drug Mart (Eastside Owen Sound), Shoppers Drug Mart (Downtown Owen Sound) and Shoppers Drug Mart (Port Elgin).
- We track the amount of food rescued locally at: https://www.foodbrucegrey.com/
- Since May 2020, 50,628.12 kilograms of food has been rescued and turned into community meals;non-perishables have been donated to food banks.
- Food Rescue is approaching almost 20 tons of food that has been diverted to meal programs and food banks since January 2021. To put that number in perspective, since the start of the pandemic, the food banks have distributed 82 tons of food throughout Grey/Bruce. Not only does food rescue help feed our vulnerable clients; the environmental cost of wasted food globally would make it the third largest country in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Community Meal Programs: March represented the highest number of meals distributed yet during the pandemic at almost 16,000, the need is not decreasing, in fact due to the skyrocketing price of housing and the lack of rental accommodation, the food insecurity may be getting worse.
- Volunteer hours: since January 2021, almost 9,000 hours of volunteer time has been donated to community food programs.
- Good Food Box: the Wiarton GFB will be running in May! Be advised that many of the GFB do not run in July/August due to the availability of fresh, local produce.
- Bruce County has purchased a quantity of tokens and if you are working with clients that are connected with Bruce County supports you can coordinate the distribution of tokens. Contact Tania Dickson.
- Income Taxes are to be filed by April 30th. If you have missed filing your taxes on time, you can still file but do so as soon as possible. Here are some things to know:
- If you owe taxes because of COVID-19 related benefits, the Canada Revenue Agency is giving people 1 year of interest relief. This means interest will not be added to your debt until April 30th, 2022. This gives you a year to pay all or a portion of the debt without penalty.
- If you are eligible for the GST/HST Credit or the Canada Child Benefit, it will not be garnished to pay tax debt for the foreseeable future. The only way to get these credits and benefits is to file your taxes.
- If you are receiving COVID-19 related benefits, like CRB, the Canada Revenue Agency will need your 2020 tax information to determine if you are still eligible for these programs. Missing the April 30th deadline could delay you receiving those benefits for up to 2 months. But you can still file after April 30th. Do so as soon as possible.
- We encourage people to speak to an OW/ODSP worker or contact CRA to establish a repayment plan.
- Please note that the CRA does NOT text people regarding their income tax filing. Scams are going around right now regarding CERB, etc. so please advise people.
- Many of the FREE Community Volunteer Income Tax Clinics in Bruce County and Grey County continue past April 30th. Call 211 for more information about your closest income tax clinic or visit https://centraleastontario.cioc.ca/record/GRE0364.
- The Income & Employment Action Group is collecting stories of people’s challenges with income tax filing this year.
- This year we have seen challenges with people who applied for CERB and then received letters in December 2020 that they were not eligible. Some people on ODSP owe back upto $10,000.
- People are reluctant to file taxes despite a 1 year interest free offer from the government on the repayment.
- Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit: On April 26, the Ontario Government began issuing payments of:
- $400 for each child or youth up to Grade 12
- $500 for each child or youth up to age 21 with special needs.
- If you received a payment through the Support for Learners program, you do not need to apply for this additional payment. If you missed applying for the Support for Learners program, you can apply for this new benefit between May 3rd and May 17th.
- Disability Tax Credit: The Federal government announced as part of the Federal Budget 2021 it will make it easier to qualify for the disability tax credit (DTC) by expanding eligibility in the areas of mental functions and life-sustaining therapy.
- For 2021, the value of the DTC is $1,299. A valid DTC certificate is required to access a variety of tax-related programs and benefits, such as the Registered Disability Savings Plan, the Child Disability Benefit and the disability supplement to the Canada Workers Benefit.
- This may have a significant impact on eligibility for ODSP.
- CLEO has just put out new Legal Rights Literacy Kits. These kits are free to download. They include resources on Employment Rights, Consumer Rights, and Tenants; Rights. https://cleoconnect.ca/learning-opportunities/lesson-plans-for-adult-learners/cleos-legal-rights-kits/
- The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce is offering free counselling service for women and children in the community who have experienced abuse. This includes women who have experienced partner abuse, mothers needing support in developing parenting skills, and youth who have experienced abuse or trauma. Contact Carlie Freiburger at 519-376-0755 ext. 104 or email@example.com.
Stay well, Jill