Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 33

Dear Colleagues, 

We came together as the full Poverty Task Force on Friday, Oct 16th.  Many of our Action Groups have been meeting regularly to coordinate immediate response to the Pandemic but since March 13th, this was the first time we gathered the larger group.  


  • We released our Impact Report 2020 on Oct 17th the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  The press release was picked up locally as well as in provincially in the Nutrition Connections. 
  • We are  developing a Shared Measurement Plan workshop with specialists at Tamarack. The workshop will most likely be virtual in late 2020 or early 2021. This is an opportunity for organizations to gain more M&E experience for their staff members. Please let Jill Umbach or Caroline Araujo-Abbotts know if you are interested. Thank you to the Community Foundation Grey Bruce for approving an extension to The Sharring Impact grant. 
  • IMPACT OF COVID19 on Families in Grey Bruce Survey: this precarious work survey has expanded to include more questions about the impact of the pandemic on families. Please encourage as many people living with precarious employment to complete the survey. The survey closes on November 30th, 2020.                                           
  • The Food Security Action Group meets bi-weekly to address the immediate response to the pandemic but is also putting into place more working systems for surplus food distribution. The Keeping Not-For-Profits Connected During COVID-19 (see attached flyer) outlines the program and how to get connected. It is anticipated that more grocery stores will be approached to enhance this food redistribution program
  • The Food Bruce Grey website has been released for the collection of data by community food programs.
  • The Housing and Homelessness Group meets weekly to address immediate response to the pandemic. Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy partners, public health, CMHA and police are part of this group to address complex cases of homelessness. 
  • Owen Sound City Manager Tim Simmons hosted the group to brainstorm on solutions to complex cases and ‘hot spots’ in the city. 
    289 households, 426 individuals, 3,515 nights, average 8.8 nights per person (Pre-COVID- 2-3 nights per person) have been housed by the YMCA Housing. 
  • Housing needs top the key issues in September 2020 for 211 calls.  
  • The online Grey Bruce Health Equity Tool has been recently reviewed and updated. If you have any additional suggestions or resources for the online tool, please feel free to forward to Lisa Alguire. 
  • The Health Equity Tool will be shared and presented at the upcoming Collaborative Action on Climate Change Virtual Conference, October 28, 2020.
  • Many Income & Employment Action Group members have moved to online training – skills upgrading and apprenticeship which has been well received, however, access to computers and wifi are ongoing needs. The YMCA Employment has a loaner laptop program. 
  • Many OW/ODSP clients appreciate meeting by phone/virtually instead of in-person because of travel costs; staff also found clients opened up in a different way over the phone than in person. 
  • There is fear, stress and anxiety experienced in regards to how public health measures will impact their employment. 
  • Proposed CRA filing of simple returns may change the Community Volunteer Income Tax program.  There was a slight rush for community income tax programs at the end of September. There may be another rush once people stop receiving benefits.
  • Grey Transit Route has added new routes and is free for Sept and Oct. 
  • Bruce County –   The Transportation and Environmental Services Committee has approved  the interim strategy to develop capacity for a taxi, Uber or Lyft type Ride for Hire services.  

Tamarack Institute’s Cities Reducing Poverty team has recently launched registration for their 2020 CRP Member Gathering: The End of Poverty online event on Thursday November 19th from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm ET.  

  • The keynote speaker is Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi. As the Poverty Task Force is a member organization we can have 5 people register from our organization. Please let me (Jill Umbach) know if you are interested to attend this event. 


  • United Way BG and GB Community Foundation Community Emergency Support Fund is still open for round 2. There is a single intake closing on Friday, Oct 30th. Contact Francesca Dobbyn or Stuart Reid.  


  • Canada Recovery Benefits – Applicants have received error messages, experienced technical glitches and confusion over eligibility questions. The federal government has made changes to correct these issues and encourages eligible citizens who were unable to apply should try again.
  • SWIFT Network is now in the third phase of its broadband expansion plan. SWIFT has issued $197 million in Requests for Proposals (RFP) to bring faster, reliable internet services to more homes and businesses in the region.  Bruce County ($13,604,132) and Grey County ($15,974,079) are currently reviewing proposals.  
  • Bruce County has launched a new Workforce Development and Attraction Strategy.  Analysis during the strategy’s creation noted that the region’s available workforce decreased by 10.9% from 2004 to 2016, and that approximately 22,000 people are nearing retirement in the next 5-10 years.   
  • Over the next five years, Bruce County will explore innovative ways of attracting, retaining, and training employees, which will help local businesses and entrepreneurs overcome labour force challenges.


Three other campaigns call for a Basic Income: 


  • Housing Stability Fund: Bruce County has received new funding to assist people who may be at risk of losing their housing, due to financial hardship from Covid-19. Because of this they will be expanding the guidelines of the Housing Stability Fund to accommodate people who have incurred more substantial arrears during this time.  They have also made changes to the income guidelines, to allow more people to qualify for assistance. If you have any questions, contact Carolyn Parks at: CParks@brucecounty.on.ca

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 32

Dear Colleagues, 

As we moved through the first wave of COVID19 we quickly mobilized our community resources and pulled together all across Grey Bruce to ensure that people were housed, fed and had access to income supports. 

As we climb over the “six-month-wall”, gloomy thoughts about the second wave and winter seem to dominate our conversations.  

Author Nancy Doyle quotes Professor Aisha Ahmad in an article on getting through the six-month mark – “The six-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal,” but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only one third of the way through this marathon. How can we keep going?” 

The article goes on to offer strategies for coping and paying attention to our wellbeing. Professor Ahmad says that it can take another 5-6 weeks to get past that 6-month wall to begin to adapt to a more long-term reality. “Right now, if you can meet your obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+”

Recently we spoke to Rev. David Shearman on Politically Speaking/Rogers TV about our collective efforts and what’s next over the next 6 months. 

And we have officially released our IMPACT Report 2020  for October 17th –  the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.   


  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) – ended when people received 28 weeks of benefits or on October 3, 2020, whichever came first. For those who applied through the Canada Revenue Agency, the last four-week period for the CERB was August 30, 2020 through September 26, 2020. However, you can still apply for the CERB retroactively through CRA.
  • Employment Insurance –  As of September 27, 2020, there are some temporary changes to the EI program to help you access EI benefits. These changes will be in effect for 1 year. Find out if you qualify:
  • If you received CERB through Services Canada – After you receive your last CERB payment, continue completing reports. In most cases, you do not need to apply for EI benefits. They will automatically review your file and your Record of Employment (ROE, then start a claim for EI regular benefits if you qualify. If you don’t qualify, you’ll be notified by mail. 
  • You will need to apply for EI after your CERB ends if:
  • you have a SIN that starts with a 9
  • you’re self-employed, or
  • you declared that you returned to work full-time on your CERB report
  • If you received CERB through Canada Revenue Agency – You need to receive all your CERB payments before applying for EI benefits. You can apply after the end of your last CERB eligibility period. Visit EI benefits and leave to determine which benefit is right for your situation and to apply online. 
  • Canada Recovery Benefit – applications opened October 12th. This benefit gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. 
  • The CRB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If you are eligible for the CRB, you can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period. If your situation continues past 2 weeks, you will need to apply again. You may apply up to a total of 13 eligibility periods (26 weeks) between Sept 27, 2020 and Sept 25, 2021. 
  • Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit –  will provide $500 per week (taxable, tax deducted at source) for up to 26 weeks per household for workers unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19, or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in one-week periods. 
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit –  will provide $500 per week (taxable, tax deducted at source) for up to a maximum of two weeks, for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in one-week periods.


  • 3,430 meals were delivered to people sheltered in Hotels/Motels from April to Sept 2020. This is a partnership of YMCA Housing, M’Wikwedong, The Women’s Centre, OSHaRE, Habitat for Humanity and the United Way Bruce Grey funded by Grey County. 
  • 65,449 meals have been served to people across Grey Bruce through OSHaRE, YUM Program/South East Grey Community Health Centre, St. Aidan’s Presbyterian Church and Union Place/CMHA – Owen Sound. 
  • 192,000 lbs of nonperishable food has gone out from The Salvation Army – Owen Sound since March 2020. Many of the surplus food donations have been distributed out to other food banks across Grey Bruce through a new Keeping Not-For-Profit Connected program led by The Salvation Army Owen Sound and OSHaRE. 
  • A new Food App – Food Bruce Grey has been developed to track the distribution of food by partners through a partnership of the United Way Bruce Grey, Bruce Power and the Nuclear Innovation Institute. 
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit has updated their COVID19: Guidelines for Community Food Programs. 


  • The City of Owen Sound’s  Guelph Owen Sound Transportation (‘GOST’) service will be operating on a revised timetable effective Monday, October 19, 2020. 
  • The morning departure from Guelph has been moved ahead 15 minutes while the afternoon departure from Owen Sound will now depart one hour later than the previously scheduled departure time. 
  • The adjustment will shorten layover times at Guelph Central Station and the Owen Sound Transit Terminal. Please visit our website or the Owen Sound Transit Terminal for information on the revised timetable. 
  • For more information, please contact Cassandra Cesco at 519-376-4440 ext. 3223 or email at ccesco@owensound.ca. 
  • The City of Owen Sound received funding from the Provincial Government’s Community Transportation Grant Program to fund the GOST service until 2023. 
  • The GOST transit service takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to make a one-way trip to Guelph Central Station. 
  • 156 passengers utilized the GOST.
  • Grey Transit Route (GTR) has expanded to include routes from Flesherton to Walkerton and return. 


  • 3,515 nights of shelter have been provided by the YMCA Housing to 426 individuals in 289 households. 
  • The Anti-Human Trafficking Committee is hosting two free virtual events to wrap up our two-year anti-human trafficking work on Nov 25th and 26th.   On Thurs, Nov 26 they are hosting a half day session for service providers. 
  • The virtual event will include a presentation by Kaitlin Bick and Karly Church and  allow service providers the opportunity to review the new tools and resources created by the anti-HT committee. The event will conclude with an discussion about how service providers can work together to address human trafficking in Grey and Bruce counties.  
  • This is a free event but  registration is required. For you more information please contact Jon Farmer  at 519-379-2574 or htcommittee@violencepreventiongreybruce.com.
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit has updated its Guidelines for Multi-Unit Dwellings.



  • Community Foundation Grey Bruce will be hosting two online interactive Vital Conversations with young adults on October 20 and 22, 2020.  These Vital Conversations will check in with people between the ages of 18 and 30 on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, their readiness for a changing work environment, their economic and holistic wellbeing. 
  • The online sessions will be held from 7 to 8:30 pm on October 20 and 22 and will be facilitated by Melri and Mike Wright of Ledge Leadership. The first meeting on Tuesday, October 20 will take a World Café style sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action built on the notion of group intelligence.    
  • The second meeting, on Thursday October 22, presented in collaboration with Georgian College Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation, will utilize an online design thinking platform that encourages visual collaborative thinking.  
  • To register go to: www.communityfoundationgreybruce.com

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 31

Dear Colleagues, 

Four County Labour Market Planning Board wants to hear about how people across Grey Bruce Huron Perth Counties have been impacted by COVID-19. This will better inform efforts to support our workforce and families during these challenging times.

  • Please complete the anonymous and confidential survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FCLMPBCOVIDIMPACT    
  • Please share your experiences and how this crisis has impacted you, your family and your job.
  • Please widely circulate this survey and encourage people your organization works with to share their experiences about how this crisis has impacted them, their family and their job. 
  • Complete the survey by November 30th, 2020.  
  • For any questions on the survey please contact: Sarah Pelton (sarah@planningboard.ca). 


  • The Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic has prepared a Post CERB Benefits and EI summary document (5 Oct 2020). 
  • Chapman’s Ice Cream has announced an increase in pandemic pay will be made permanent for employees. 
  • The Ontario government has announced it will provide 2-3 temporary wage increases for PSWs. 
  • Bruce County has opened more EarlyON Child and Family Centres. Families are encouraged to visit the Bruce County website and Bruce County EarlyON Facebook Pages for registration information, including a schedule of dates and times for each location.


  • The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce has produced posters to help create awareness around gender-based violence and the service options available to victims of domestic abuse. These are intended to hang in public washrooms throughout Grey Bruce. With the closure of most public washrooms, they are encouraging organizations to hang them in their spaces. 
  • Anyone who is interested, please contact Carrie Stevenson (carries@thewomenscentre.org, 519-376–0755 ext 103) and posters can be delivered.

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 30

29 September 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

Last week the Federal government opened up Parliament with a Throne Speech from the Liberals. They announced 4 priorities: 

  • fighting the pandemic and saving lives; 
  • supporting businesses and people through the crisis; 
  • building back a more resilient Canada; 
  • and standing up for who Canadians are.

The Throne Speech proposes important investments, in climate action, childcare and pharmacare.  The government promised to extend the pandemic wage subsidy, create a million new jobs and establish a national child-care strategy, signalling a shift toward longer-term support for Canadian businesses to keep employees employed; and support to tourism and the arts.   

The government still plans to pursue some pre-existing commitments, including implementing national pharmacare, restricting handguns, improving rural broadband access, and investing in public transit and energy efficient retrofits.

Trish Hennessy article After the throne speech: a test of our resolve points out the fact that there was “only one mention of low-income Canadians and one mention of poverty. Even something as basic as addressing the inadequacy of the minimum wage in Canada goes without mention.” 

“But the bottom line is this: if the throne speech passes a confidence vote, all eyes will be on the next economic update, to see if it’s more than words and actually invests in transformative change.”


With the end of CERB on Oct 3rd, 2020, many people are anxious about support payments. The government did not announce a Basic Income model in the Throne Speech but under Bill C-2 propose a new suite of measures aimed to transition people from the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) to an employment insurance program with expanded eligibility, or to one of three new recovery benefits.

  • It is anticipated that most people currently on the CERB program will be rolled into an expanded EI if they meet the qualifications. These qualifications have been expanded to include more people than usual.
  • Minimum hours required to receive EI have been set at 420 hours in the last 52 weeks. People will receive a minimum of $400/week.
  • If you do not have 420 hours but do have a minimum of 120 hours, the government will do a one-time top up of 300 hours to get you to the 420. 
  • This top up will be automatic if all of your Records of Employment are in your My Service Canada account. 
  • It is recommended to check My Service Canada accounts to make sure all ROEs are logged and check the hours for the last 52 weeks. 
  • If people receive CERB through Service Canada, the switch from CERB to EI will be automatic. 
  • If people receive CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency, they will need to apply for EI through Service Canada. 
  • A new income support program is in the works, the Canada Response Benefit (CRB), which is designed to cover gig, freelance and contract workers who don’t qualify for EI. That was previously slated to pay $400 a week, but the Liberals bumped the amount up to $500 after Thursday’s throne speech.       
  • Bill C-2 also provides for a 10-day sick leave benefit.  
  • The Throne Speech promises a new national disability benefit modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors.  
  • The federal government also announced a free, automatic tax filing system for simple returns — a policy change meant to provide government benefits to qualified people who don’t collect them now because they skip filing their taxes. 36 countries, including Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, already permit return-free filing for some taxpayers

Ontario’s minimum wage adjustment scheduled for October 1, 2020, after a 34-month freeze, will still fall below Statistics Canada’s low-income measure of poverty. 

  • Fight for $15 and Fairness states that with the lower wage and loss of sick benefits workers are being unfairly treated. 
  • The Federal government has promised to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $15 in 2020 and ensure annual adjustments to keep up with inflation. 


The Emergency Community Support Fund (ESCF) is back for Round 2! United Way of Bruce Grey and the Community Foundation Grey Bruce are now accepting funding applications for the Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF). 

  • The Government of Canada’s $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) aims to help charities and non-profit organizations adapt and increase frontline services for vulnerable populations during COVID-19. 
  • The Government of Canada is releasing the balance of the $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) in a second round of funding ($73.9 million).  Applicants can begin submitting applications October 5, 2020.
  • They are looking for specific projects for people with disabilities as well as women and girls. But they are not limited to those demographics. 
  • Organizations providing front-line services to vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19 are eligible to apply, including registered charities, and other qualified donees.   
  •  Applications less than $20 000 are encouraged for this round. If you wish to apply for a larger amount, please contact Francesca Dobbyn to discuss, at 519-376-1560. The application will be available for download on October 5, 2020.  Applications will open on October 5th and will end on October 30, 2020 at 3 pm.   Only applications filed through that intake point will be considered.
  • In preparation for the application, organizations can get a head start by reviewing the application questions.  To view or download the pdf, visit:  https://unitedwayofbrucegrey.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ECSF-Round-2-Application-Questions-2.pdf  
  • For more information about the ECSF or the applications process, please visit www.ecsfuwbg.com or www.communityfoundationgreybruce.com for eligibility and application instructions. For more information contact  Francesca Dobbyn 519-376-1560 or Stuart Reid 519-371-7203.  


  • The Federal government has announced the $1 billion Rapid Housing Initiative to rapidly create new affordable housing, including modular homes and acquisitions. This is a step in addressing housing challenges and homelessness. 
  • An additional $236.7 million will be invested through the Reaching Home Initiative whichwill provide support to individuals experiencing homelessness from the impacts of COVID-19. 
  • CMHA has posted for the Housing Systems Navigator position that will be supporting and getting the Homelessness By-names List off the ground. Wanted to share the link as we are trying to generate some additional exposure. Applications due by Sunday.


  • 17 Good Food Boxes announced a refresh for September with increased protective measures related to COVID-19, such as hand sanitizers, masks and distancing practices. About 145 volunteers across Grey Bruce run local programs. 
  • Anyone in Grey Bruce is encouraged to order the boxes. More orders create greater discounts through bulk purchasing. The boxes are pre-ordered for $16-$20 each and packed by volunteers on the distribution date. Community members can find information on a Good Food Box location close to them on 211 or visit Good Food Box
  • sponsoring system is also in place, allowing organizations and businesses to purchase boxes for clients. Sponsored boxes can be purchased through the Owen Sound location, OSHaRE, but are available for all Good Food Box locations. 
  • September 30th is Orange Shirt Day.  
  • To mark the Orange T-Shirt Day, the Nawash Family Well-Being Program is sponsoring a “Stop and Grab” take-out lunch at the Maadookii Fire Keepers Lodge. 

IMPACTS of COVID19 Studies/Surveys

  • Community Foundation Grey Bruce, supported by RBC Future Launch, will be hosting two online interactive Vital Conversations with Young Adults on October 20 and 22, 2020.  These Vital Conversations will check in with people between the ages of 18 and 30 on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, their readiness for a changing work environment, their economic and holistic wellbeing.  
  • Participants can join one meeting or sign up for both. Input from participants will be reflected in future Vital Signs work being prepared by the Foundation. To register or for more information, please visit: https://communityfoundationgreybruce.com/post/?ID=222
  • Queen’s University is surveying Indigenous Youth and Adults (16 years and older) on their social and emotional experience of COVID19. Access the survey here
  • The Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation is hosting its 2020 CRRF Virtual Conference: Supporting Rural Recovery & Resilience on Oct 1st and 2nd. This is a free event.  Register here.


  • Grey Bruce Settlement Services also looks forward to continuing to offer a full range of services to newcomers despite the current restrictions.  
  • Grey Bruce Settlement Services began delivery of a full slate of LINC English as a Second Language (ESL) classes on September 8, 2020. Levels offered are from Literacy to Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Level 6. Classes are currently online-afternoon and evening, until restrictions are lifted to allow for in-class delivery.

Stay well, Jill