Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 43

Dear Colleagues, 

While 2021 appears to have started on a very bumpy road, there are a few things to celebrate about the New Year. 

Grey County council has supported in principle a plan to increase the county’s tax levy and dedicate those funds to increasing affordable housing. The Committee of the Whole also approved a task force recommendation to create a fund that would be used to help finance affordable housing builds, purchase surplus land to support new builds and provide rental supplements. 

Tamarack has released a new 10 Guide:  A Guide for Community-Based COVID-19 Recovery. It provides community leaders with good ideas, inspiring stories and useful resources to rebuild more prosperous and peaceful communities. 

While it may feel like we are in a perpetual Groundhog Day, this year’s Wiarton Willie prediction will be virtual – like so many things this year. 


  • Singles in poverty: when it comes to social assistance across Canada, employable single adults without dependents are a very neglected subgroup. Increasing their benefit levels would likely result in less poverty, improved food security and less homelessness.  Read more
  • Bruce County Public Library:  plans to hold a drop-off CVITP clinic at Walkerton Branch Library starting March 22, 2021. With a drop-off clinic, clients will not be meeting face-to-face with the volunteers.  This is subject to change depending on Provincial guidelines at the time the clinic is scheduled to begin. 
  • CERB Tax Slips – Canadians will start to receive tax slips (T4A) from the Canada Revenue Agency for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and recovery benefits. 
    • The income tax portion of CERB was not taken off so this portion will be considered when completing tax returns. 
    • Call 211 to find your closest Community Volunteer Income-Tax Program (CVITP) clinic. If your organization is running a CVITP, make sure to update your information with 211. 
  • Emergency Child Care Program: In response to the Province’s emergency child care program for essential, frontline workers, Grey County will be providing emergency care at East Ridge school in Owen Sound and Hanover Heights school in Hanover. For more information, visit Grey County’s website here: https://www.grey.ca/news/targeted-emergency-child-care  
  • Until further notice, you will not need to renew these products, even if they have expired: health cards, driver’s licences, licence plate stickers. accessible parking permits, Ontario Photo Cards, Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates. More info: ServiceOntario.ca/Services  


  • Grey Bruce Elder Abuse Prevention (GBEAP) – a subcommittee of Violence Prevention Grey Bruce has launched a new education campaign about Elder Abuse and resources in Grey Bruce. GBEAP reports that calls to the provincial Seniors Safety Line have risen 300% during the pandemic.  
  • Support for Seniors and People with Disabilities during Provincewide Shutdown – List of Ontario programs: 
    • Ontario Community Support Program – helps provide deliveries of food, medicine, and other essentials to low-income seniors and people with disabilities in need. You can request a delivery by visiting the COVID-19 Community Support Finder, dialing 211 or calling toll free: 1-877-330-3213/ TTY: 1-888-340-1001. 
    • 211 Ontario, which also helps connect seniors and people with disabilities to a range of other social and community services. Help is available over the phone or online through email or live chat. 
    • Seniors can contact their local Seniors Active Living Centre to learn more about local social, cultural or educational programs that may be offered virtually or by telephone. 
    • The Seniors Safety Line, a 24-hour crisis and support line for seniors in Ontario who have experienced any type of abuse or neglect, which offers callers emotional support, safety planning, information and referrals in over 200 languages. 
    • ConnectABILITY.ca, a website and virtual community that offers information and resources to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. 


  • YMCA Housing provided 604 nights of shelter in Dec 2020. By January 14th, 400 nights of shelter were provided to 80 people. They are starting to see a lot of families and seniors. The Meals to Motels has doubled since December. Two new motels in Wiarton have been added as shelters. 
  • Most housing service staff remain in offices or centres – YMCA Housing, Women’s House Serving Grey Bruce, Women’s Centre Grey Bruce, Safe N Sound, H.O.W. Grey Bruce (854) and United Way of Bruce Grey – to provide in-person or curbside service as essential services.
  • Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth is continuing to provide help through alternative methods of communication.  If you are in need of assistance please contact their 24-hour contact line at 1-866-376-9852.    
  • Paused Residential Evictions – Ontario government issued an emergency order to temporarily pause the enforcement of residential evictions and ensure people are not forced to leave their homes during the provincial declaration of emergency and while the stay-at-home-order is in force. 
  • Pro Bono Ontario offers a free legal advice hotline at 1-855-255-7256  but we recommend that people contact our local Legal Clinic first. 
  • Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) reports that tenants are seeing an increase in evictions and challenges with accessing online Tenant-Landlord Tribunal.  Tribunals Ontario is pursuing “a digital-first strategy”.  Anecdotally, local housing support services in Grey Bruce are not seeing significant numbers of physical evictions. Wait times for tribunal hearings were significantly delayed pre-COVID19 and continue to be further delayed. 
  • A new study conducted by the Lawson Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) revealed that individuals recently homeless were over 20 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, over 10 times more likely to receive intensive care, and they were over 5 times more likely to die within 21 days of a positive test.


  • Good to Go is a new guided meal program bringing local foods to you in meal kits. We are hoping to launch in February, and you can reach out to Michelle at  goodtogo.tmp@gmail.com for more information or to sign up.
  • Since mid-January 2020, 126,970 meals have been delivered by 11 community meal programs. All community meal programs and food banks continue to operate with curbside service during the lockdown. We have seen a few reduce numbers of volunteers working together but service to the community continues to keep up services in January. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 42

Dear Colleagues,

Today, the Province issued a Stay-at-Home Order to reduce people’s movements and ultimately to reduce the rate of COVID19 transmission and infection. This order and other new and existing public health restrictions are aimed at limiting people’s mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts with those outside an immediate household. In addition to limiting outings to essential trips, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.

At this time, we wish to reach out to community partners and let them know that as essential service providers we hope that you will be able to adapt to these lockdown conditions and still continue to provide essential services.  

We at the United Way Bruce Grey and all members of the Poverty Task Force worked hand-in-hand with the Grey Bruce Public Health in March 2020 to quickly respond under previous lockdown measures; develop guidelines/policies and best practices to ensure the safe delivery of services and developed new ways of reaching the most vulnerable in our community. 

We know that 2021 already feels like it is not going to give us an easier time than 2020. But we also know that your organization and community is resilient and together we are strong! 
If you have any concerns, questions or need to walk through any challenges that would prevent you from providing essential services, please don’t hesitate to contact us at the United Way Bruce Grey/Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force or Grey Bruce Public Health. 

A small reminder, to please let 211 know if your services are affected by these additional lockdown measures.  

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 41

Happy New Year! 

While we all have been encouraged to think that 2020 is over, and we are moving into the homestretch with COVID19 response; 2021 is still packing a wallop to individuals and families in the first week of the new year. Today, the Province announced that elementary school children would return to in-person schooling one week later than planned on January 25th. And this is because the numbers of people testing positive for COVID19 are rising after our Christmas Holidays. 

So what sustains us?  To keep going with our emergency response and deal with the intensification of peoples’ mental health and other needs? To continue riding the rollercoaster with community members with increasingly complex needs? 

BuzzFeed writer Elamin Abdelmahmoud writes in a Hopes Week article thathe learned throughout 2020 that “hope is best understood not as an emotion, but an orientation.”

[Hope] “is a disposition toward the unknown — a state of intentionally turning toward what’s undefined and allowing the possibility that it holds good things to grow and occupy as much as space as the possibility that it does not.   

Hope is not cultivated alone. There is a billion-dollar self-care industry built around the idea that you are in charge of your emotions, and you need only take care of your needs, your exhaustion, your burnout, in order to revive your most hopeful self. But the truth is thatwe derive as much meaning from serving others and building hope in them.” INCOME SUPPORTS

  • The Ontario Government will invest over $77 million to help laid off workers find jobs. Recipients will receive up to $28,000 for training and living expenses. This funding is part of an “updated and improved Second Career program”. Certain criteria means some job seekers will be fast tracked onto the Second Career program:
    • Applicant was laid off on or after March 1, 2020. 
    • Applicant has high school education or less, or was laid off from an occupation requiring no more than a high school education and job specific training, such as food and beverage servers, flight attendants, and retail salespersons.
    • Applicant was laid off from an industry hit hard by the pandemic, such as hospitality and food services, transportation and warehousing or wholesale and retail trade.
  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy – rate increase to 75% for period beginning Dec. 20, 2020 to March 13, 2021. 
  • Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy extended to March 13, 2021. Tthe new Lockdown Support could boost your rent subsidy up to 90%.
  • Canada Child Benefit for eligible families with children under 6 years will be enhanced (to come out in early 2021).
  • There will be a new simplified “home office expense deduction” for 2020 of up to $400. This flat rate will allow eligible employees to claim a deduction of $2 for each day they worked at home due to COVID-19 up to a maximum of $400 without a Form T2200 from their employer. 
  • Canada Emergency Business Account loan for small business owners – deadline to apply extended to March 31, 2021.
  • COVID-19: Support for students and parents – Has been expanded to student age 13 to grade 12, including students who are in secondary school that are over 18. Applications for this age range will open January 11th, 2021. 
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: It’s available if you can’t work because you’re sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19. The federal government is making changes to the $1,000 sickness benefit, anyone who travelled for non-essential reasons will not be able to access it. 
  • CRA will invest more than $10 million over three years in a new grant program to help organizations providing Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) services offset some of their costs. This fund recognizes the increased costs of supporting clients during COVID-19. 
  • The Income & Employment Action Group is currently updating the Free Grey Bruce Income Tax list for 2021 and currently you will find the listing based on 2020 information for those offering year round service. Please note that the YMCA year round service will be on hold from Jan 20th – Feb 28th as part of the year’s delivery cycle from CRA.  
  • GST/HST payments occur on the 5th day of January, April, July and October as long as your personal income tax is in good standing. When you file your income taxes, you are automatically considered for the GST/HST credit.
  • LEADS OPTIONS Program: starting next cohort on January 4th virtually and are able to support with technology, childcare, and/or any other support a client may require.  Please feel free to reach out to Cassandra if you require any further information.


  • The holidays saw tremendous work being done across Grey County and Bruce County to provide meals, gift cards, toys and shelter during the holiday. Just a few are mentioned here to demonstrate the incredible work carried out.  
  • TVO has featured the work being done by Maxine and Dean Bender’s Chesley Baptist Church Hot Meal program. 
  • Over 70 volunteers and the Queen’s Pub came together to serve 1,140 meals over 2 days in Saugeen Shores and Saugeen First Nation. 
  • As of January 5th, 26 food organizations in Grey County and Bruce County reported over 22,000 volunteer hours in 2020.  And over 125,000 meals were distributed by 10 community meal programs. This data is daily updated at: https://www.foodbrucegrey.com/public-dashboards
  • OSHaRE volunteers spent 7,365 hours in 2020 helping them to share over 72, 792 meals . 102, 826 lbs of food were donated or rescued to use in meals and to share out with other community partners across Grey and Bruce.  235 Christmas meals were delivered in partnership with the Salvation Army on Christmas Day in Owen Sound. 
  • Simona Freibergova is facilitating several upcoming Grey Bruce Community Gardens Network webinars: 
    • How to start a Community Gardens – presenting by Teresa Pearson – date: Feb 8 at 6:30pm 
    • How to create a Food Forest Garden – presenting by Thomas Dean – date: TBD



Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 40

Dear Colleagues, 

Well, we knew it was bound to happen but we were not sure that it would impact us here in Grey County and Bruce County.  But the Ontario government has announced a lockdown from December 26th, 2020 to January 21st, 2021 for all of Ontario.

While we have shared out with everyone some emergency housing and Christmas assistance (community meals, food bank and toys) programs in last week’s update, we are now including lockdown updates for social programs starting December 26th, 2020.  

Please call 211 or search http://informationbrucegrey.ca/ for the latest updates. We shall also endeavour to update our Poverty Task Force COVID19 Resource Page. 

Thank you to everyone who has spread so much Christmas cheer at this time of the year!  And who have been working for so many months. Deep breaths. We can keep going and serving our community!  #togetherwearestrong #greybrucestrong  


  • Bruce County Human Services: Bruce County offices are closed from 12noon on Dec 24th – Jan 4th.  Staff are available for emergencies from Dec 29th – 31st (1-800-265-3002). As per the Provincial Shutdown their offices will be open by essential appointment only until Jan 24th.
  • Grey County Social Services: Grey County offices are closed from  12noon on Dec 24th through to Jan 4th. Ontario Works and Children’s Services will take emergency calls from Dec 29th – 31st (519-376-7112, press 2). And Housing Services at: 
  • Grey Bruce Schools: are closed for holidays and returning to online schooling on January 4th, 2021. Elementary school students are planned to be able to return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021. Secondary school students will continue learning remotely until January 25, 2021, at which point they may resume in-person learning.  
  • In January 2021, students aged 13 through Grade 12 will be eligible for funding under an expanded Support for Learners program. Parents or guardians will receive a one-time payment of $200 per eligible student to help offset education expenses. Support will be available for those who attend a public or private school or who are homeschooled.  
  • Application instructions will be available on the Support for Learners web page starting in January 2021.  Secondary school student applications will be open from January 11, 2021 to February 8, 2021. 
  • Support for Learners for children/youth aged 0 to 12 and for children/youth aged 0 to 21 with special needs is currently open and the application deadline has been extended to February 8, 2021.
  • Childcare programs will remain open. Before and after school programs are not allowed to operate from January 4-8, and may not charge fees or penalize families during this time. Emergency childcare will be provided for some essential workers.
  • COVID 19 Energy Assistance: The government announced it will hold electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for all time-of-use and tiered customers on a temporary basis starting January 1, 2021. 
  • This low rate will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for a 28-day period. The off-peak price will automatically be applied to bills of all residential, small business, and farm customers who pay regulated rates.  
  • COVID 19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) Any residential, small business, or registered charity customer with an overdue electricity or natural gas bill will now be eligible to apply to CEAP. 
  • A residential customer can receive up to $750 to help cover their electricity bill and an additional $750 for their natural gas bill. 
  • Small businesses can receive up to $1500 for each. Newly eligible customers can apply for these enhanced benefits through their local utility, starting in January 2021.  
  • Mobility for Good For Seniors: TELUS has launched a new program for seniors who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and can provide an Old Age Security Statement. 
  • They are eligible for: A free smartphone and a $25/month plan that includes unlimited nationwide talk/text and 3GB of data. This offer is contract-free. Seniors who take advantage of the offer can cancel at any time without incurring additional fees. 


  • Christmas Assistance and Dinners that are currently listed on 211 are divided by County. Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Grey and Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Bruce
  • The Salvation Army food truck will be providing Christmas meals from the OSHaRE parking lot in Owen Sound from 11:30-1pm on Dec 25th. 
  • OSHaRE was preparing 100-120 meals a day. Recent grants have allowed them to purchase new equipment and enough pots, pans and supplies to cook 300-350 meals a day.  This has made things easier on their staff and volunteers; as well as expanding their ability to support programs outside of Owen Sound.   
  • Curbside services: under lockdown, many food services will be moving back to curbside services.  We are in the midst of updating our lists but the following contact information will remain the same:  
  • Grocery Stores in Grey Bruce (April 2020)
  • Pet Resources Grey Bruce (April 2020)
  • Tamarack Institute blogged about the work of Grey Bruce community meals and food banks collective work and the data collected.  


  • Safe N Sound will remain open as a drop-in centre during the lockdown.  They will be open from 9am-3pm and 5pm-9pm, M-F. 
  • CMHA Community Connections and H.O.W. GB are both open in Owen Sound and across Bruce and Grey.  Outreach, Residential and Group services will continue to operate status quo. The hours at both sites are 8:30am-4:30pm.
  • YMCA Community Initiatives – Emergency Shelter remains open. Please contact 211 (24 hrs/7 days/week) and/or 519-371-9230 x 5 to reach a YMCA Housing Stability Worker, M-F, 8:3am-4:30pm.
  • Grey Bruce Public Health: harm reduction services are running except for Dec 25th, Jan 1st. 
  • CMHA Mental Health & Addictions Outreach Supports: services can be accessed through CMHA Grey Bruce at 519-371-2390, M-F, 8:30am-4:30pm.  Please call the emergency mental health crisis line at: 1-877-470-5200. 
  • Hope for Wellness Indigenous Hotline: for traditional health during crisis contact: 1-855-242-3310. 
  • Housing Support List (August 2020)


  • The Community Foundation Grey Bruce and the United Way Bruce Grey awarded their second round of Emergency Community Support Fund to local programs.   
  • The Ontario government announced today it is providing nearly $41 million to help 486 non-profit organizations across the province to rebuild and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants are part of the first round of funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fundwhich closed for applications on December 9th, 2020. 

Stay well, Jill