Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 15

Dear Colleagues, 

With high temperatures, sunny days and restrictions being eased it is easy to forget we are in a global pandemic. We have done an incredible job to adapt our programs to continue to provide essential services. Now businesses are opening their doors and people are out shopping.  

However, at recent Feed Ontario and Food Bank Canada meetings they are discussing 3 possible surges over the next year – end of summer, November/December and in the spring. So we must remain flexible and responsive to the ongoing needs of our vulnerable population as well as looking at the longer-term sustainability of our current programs. 

We are all working through many organizational questions and decisions to ensure the safety of our staff and clients as we consider opening up our physical doors again. 

Maytree hosted a webinar last week – Five Good Ideas about re-opening your workplace post COVID-19 that is now available to watch.  Watch the webinar  

BDO is offering a webinar Assessing your Organization’s Readiness to Return to Work on 2 June 2020.

Grey Bruce Public Health has issued Guidelines for the Re-Opening of businesses and FAQ for Business Operations and Re-Opening and guidelines for specific sectors can be found COVID19 Workplace Resources page. 

We are hearing from all sectors of response that people are frustrated with the social isolation and physical distancing. Socialization has changed and as we open up more programs we must also allow the time for people to adjust to programs that have new social rules. 


  • The 21 Food Banks in Grey Bruce continue to provide essential services and to plan for the next 6 months and possibly longer. There have been many changes to ensure the safe distribution of food hampers and we have seen an increase in home deliveries.
  • We continue to see an increase in the number of people accessing community meal programs take-away meals across Grey Bruce. OSHaRE has seen an increase in May over March/April with 1,000 more meals. There continues to be incredible donations of funds and food, including Foodrescue.ca fresh produce. Social isolation has increased our need for these programs and people are reporting that there is a certain comfort coming from meals delivered. 
  • The Good Food Box numbers are increasing and those that are closed are considering re-opening. The Dundalk Good Food box is now up-and-running starting in May. 
  • Fresh food markets are adapting the way they are operating. Eat Local Grey Bruce were ahead of the curve and able to stay open under COVID19 with their online ordering and delivery service.   
  • Greenbelt Markets are now supporting local Farmers Markets to transition to online-ordering solutions in Flesherton and Thornbury.  
  • And others have created new e-commerce sites such as the Owen Sound Farmers Market. 
  • Community gardens are planting! And those with greenhouses are already generating vegetables to donate to food banks and other community groups. Protocols for operations have been developed by most gardens and best practices shared by Food Security Action Group members. Garden coordinators have created elaborate schedules to ensure proper social distancing, safe tool handling, etc. 
  • The spirit of community gardening has changed for some gardens in order to accomodate public health protocols and therefore people using the gardens have to adjust to not spending as much chatting and hanging out at the gardens. 
  • Chippewas of Nawash Hello Fresh Program is offering free meals for off-reserve members. One member per household can sign up and receive free meals.   


  • Our housing partners continue to shelter people. While numbers have slowed down the people supported are presenting with more complex needs. 
    • M’Wikwedong is seeing a movement of people leaving reserves. 
    • Warmer weather means more people are choosing to live outdoors. YMCA Housing and Safe ‘N Sound are ensuring that check-ins are happening to ensure social distancing in any potential tent encampment. 
    • Most traditional cooling stations are closed so please check with each municipality or city/town on alternative locations. For example, the City of Owen Sound has opened the Farmers Market pavilion from 12:00PM – 4:30PM throughout the week until temperatures cool. Users of the cooling centre must maintain proper physical distancing at all times. Ground markers and posters will be present as a reminder. An industrial fan will be used to circulate air through the space.
    •  The downtown Welcome Centre and Safe ‘N Sound remain open for drop-ins. 
  • As of May 29th, the YMCA Housing has coordinated 660 meals to be delivered to people sheltered by the YMCA Housing  – prepared by OSHaRE, delivered by Habitat and funded through the United Way and Grey County. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound are seeing people evicted by landlords and people are being referred to the GB Community Legal Clinic. Eviction bans contribute to the effectiveness of shelter-in-place emergency orders put in place to ensure everyone’s health and safety, but we still need additional measures to protect renters, during the remainder of the pandemic, and afterwards.  
  • Tenants who have fallen behind on their rent because of COVID-19 will need help to stay housed when the current eviction ban is lifted. A new analysis  by Maytree calls for targeted rent relief, a gradual easing of the eviction ban, and a reintroduction of rent controls. 
  • Thanks to the United Way for pulling together a reminder of the tenant-landlord agreements on Air Conditioning.   


  • The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care has shared its recommended plan for reopening child care centres. This report  highlights the challenges for women, in particular, to return to the workplace without safe childcare in place.   
  • Discussions began to introduce 10 days of universal sick leave/year by the Federal government. Currently this benefit is decided at a provincial level and most allow for 3 days sick leave.  
  • IncomeTaxes are due June 1st and payment owing by August 30th, 2020. 
    • YMCA is offering free Community Volunteer Income Tax Program virtual tax services in Hanover and Owen Sound. They typically do 500/year and they reported on 26 May they have already done 300. 
    • South East Grey Community Health Services is offering Community Volunteer Income Tax services as well.  
    • M’Wikwedong IFC canceled their clinics but are supporting individual clients to file if it is their first time applying for government benefits or need the assessment completed to access services. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 14

Dear Colleagues, 

Yesterday, the Federal government announced that our borders will remain closed and our Provincial government announced that schools will also remain closed. Everyone is discussing what the “new normal” will look like for our students, for service agencies and for our staff moving forward. 

In this Community Update, we share about two upcoming webinars examining approaches for the “new normal” and we have listed some new funding opportunities that will support our respective agencies to adapt our frontline services to better support the most vulnerable people in Grey Bruce. 

  • Re-Opening Workplaces Post-COVID: Maytree’s upcoming webinar, on Thursday, May 21 at 1 p.m., will explore strategies and approaches for organizations to implement as we adjust to the “new normal,” including addressing crisis management, re-examining how we work, and implementing lessons learned over the course of this crisis that will become best practices going forward.
  • Living the Future, Today: Tamarack Institute’s upcoming webinar  on Tuesday, May 28th, 1pm, will use an inquiry-based problem-solving approach to understand and unravel the complexity of the incredible shifts we are experiencing in our work and home lives as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Members of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force continue to engage in regional and cross-Canada discussions via Tamarack Institute, Feed Ontario, Sustain OntarioCampaign 2000OMSSAmunicipalities and other networks on the need to enhance our social safety nets. 

  • One string is not a safety net – it’s a tightrope: this opinion piece from Maytree warns against the risks of focusing on a single program or solution, arguing that building an adequate social safety net in response to COVID-19 requires building and strengthening public services, systems, and income supports at the same time. Read it here.  


  • Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF): The United Way of Bruce Grey and the Community Foundation Grey Bruce are now accepting funding applications.
  • The fund provides financial support to charities and other qualified donees adapting their frontline services to support vulnerable Canadians 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
  • The Canadian Red Cross is also managing a portion of the Emergency Community Support Fund. The deadline to apply is June 21, 2020. All activities and expenditures must take place between April 1, 2020 to October 31, 2020. Read more on granting program.
  • ODSP Emergency Fund: ODSP clients who have additional expenses related to the COVID-19 outbreak and who don’t receive Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) income (with some exceptions) are eligible for monthly payments of $100 for a single person or $200 for a family until July 2020.
  • Families with a youth under 18 receiving the CERB or a family member in full-time school attendance receiving the CERB may still be eligible for the benefit. If you received this benefit in March or April and meet the eligibility criteria, you will automatically receive the benefit in May, June and July.
  • For new requests, please email ODSP.EmergencyBenefit@ontario.ca or call 1-888-444-2412 with your name, member ID and your additional expenses. 
  • Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA):provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced, due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus.  Changes to the eligibilty to CEBA were made yesterday. 
  • Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 25 percent (up to $10,000).  
  • Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy:  helps businesses keep employees on the payroll and encourages employers to re-hire workers previously laid off, and better positions businesses to bounce back following the crisis. 
  • As a Canadian employer whose business has been affected by COVID-19, you may be eligible for a subsidy of 75% of employee wages for up to 24 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020 to August 29, 2020
  • Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF): Employers who could not get support through CEWS or CEBA can apply to the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), where funding is provided in the form of loans through 6 regional development agencies.  
  • Ontario Pandemic Pay: The temporary pandemic pay and lump sum payments do not impact the eligibility for Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
  • As of May 15, ministries have contacted all eligible employers, service delivery partners or employer associations.
  • Eligible employees will receive temporary pandemic pay on hourly wages and those working over 100 hours in a designated four-week period will receive monthly lump sum payments. This pay will be provided retroactively to April 24, 2020


  • For all ODSP applicants and recipients, CERB payments are treated like employment income. The first $200, and 50 per cent of each additional dollar received, is exempt. 
  • If you are receiving the CERB, you should report this income. You can do this using phone, fax, mail, secure email or the general ODSP office email address.
  • If you become financially ineligible for ODSP income support while receiving the CERB, you will NOT lose access to health benefits. You will remain on social assistance, at a nominal amount, to ensure continued access to benefits and case management supports.
  • Please do not contact ODSP to apply for the CERB. For information on eligibility for CERB or to apply visit: Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
  • Return paymentThe CRA needs to ensure that the CERB is paid to and kept only by those individuals who are eligible. You must repay the CERB if you no longer meet the eligibility requirements for the 4-week period in question. This could happen if: 
    • you earned employment or self-employment income earlier than expected 
    • you applied for the CERB but later realized you’re not eligible 
    • you received a CERB payment from both Service Canada and the CRA for the same period. 
  • The CERB is taxable. You will receive a T4A tax slip on the amount of CERB you receive. 
  • If you repay the CERB, the CRA won’t issue a T4A for that payment. To ensure that we don’t issue slips improperly, you need to repay your CERB before December 31, 2020.

Ontario Disability Support Program and COVID 19 

  • MCCSS has announced temporary changes to ODSP. ODSP office hours are now 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday with reduced staff. Please be patient as they do their best to assist you, answer calls and respond to inquiries. For everyone’s health and well-being, please avoid going to an ODSP office unless asked to do so.


  • The United Way of Bruce Grey has received a grant to hire a full time Financial Literacy Co-ordinator to assist Bruce Grey residents navigate various income supports during the Covid 19 Pandemic. See attached posting. Application closes 22 May 2020
  • If aTrillium Drug Programhousehold has experienced an income change in 2019 or 2020 of 10% or more compared to their 2018 income, they can apply to have their deductible recalculated  by completing and submitting the Annual Deductible Re-Assessment Form
  • Eligible households who are not currently enrolled in the Trillium Drug Program and have high prescription costs can also complete and submit an application and re-assessment form by e-mail or fax.  

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 13

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.


  • 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.

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 


  • 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.  


  • 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 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 12

Dear Colleagues, 

Despite the COVID19 pandemic, many organizations continue to provide on-going services to children, youth and families across Grey Bruce.  Adapting to social distancing has meant the closure of physical buildings but staff have been reaching out to clients/customers through calls, text and video.  Many of our partners have moved online with virtual gatherings for children, youth and parents. We have listed some COVID19 Children/Youth Supports and Resources below. 

During this COVID19 pandemic, we are seeing an increase in people needing income, food, shelter and mental health support. It is a credit to our strong networks such as the Children’s Alliance, the Poverty Task Force, Healthy Community Partnership Table, GB Integrated Health Coalition and other tables that we are able to quickly coordinate a collective response.  

  • 211 Ontario has released its April 2020 Report on Unmet Needs this week.  The Top 3 Needs are: food access (26%), income support/employment assistance (14%) and health, including mental health & addictions (13%).   
  • Since March 19th, the YMCA Housing has housed 121 households for 784 nights of shelter. 30% have been re-housed. 
  • 256 meals were delivered in 1 week to 2 motels in Grey County in a YMCA partnership between OSHaRE, Habitat and United Way funded by Grey County.   
  • We have seen close to 300% increase in community meals served across Grey Bruce. 


  • #HeretoHelpGB involves many partners supporting children, youth and parents in crisis.  If you or someone you know is in an abusive or vulnerable situation, call 2-1-1, or 1-800-668-6868 @KidsHelpPhone or 9-1-1 in an emergency. 
  • The YMCA is offering Youth Virtual Workshops on Social Distancing group sessions on May 8,11th and 22nd; or individual sessions can be booked. Call/text:519-373-1016 or email: jessica.currie@osgb.ymca.ca  
  • The YMCA Community Services programs – employment, youth housing and justice – have gone online and support services are offered via telephone/virtual meetings.
  • Vpi Working Solutions – employment and youth supports – have gone to online services offered via telephone/virtual meetings. Website vpi‑inc.com. Youth Job Connect stating June 1st. for youth between the ages of 15-29. Call for more details 519-881-4900  
  • Bruce County Children’s Services is piloting the initial phase of its Emergency Childcare Program for hospital staff with the South Grey Bruce Health Centre.   Emergency childcare allows eligible health care and other front-line workers to have the childcare support they need to continue protecting the health and wellbeing of Bruce County residents during this COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • Bruce Grey Child & Family Services has also been working to meet a demand for thermometers for families and has seconded staff to work on the coordination of health & hygiene kits to seniors and children in partnership with the United Way of Bruce Grey.   
  • The United Way of Bruce Grey is managing a Pandemic Fund and funding community food programs, housing & homelessness and transportation services.  They are funding and coordinating the distributions of health & hygiene kits/gift cards to school children via the Grey Bruce Student Nutrition Program.  
  • Keystone continues to provide support digitically or via telephone to existing families and is taking new referrals. Contact at: 519-371-4773. in partnership with Martin Bus Lines and The Rocking Horse is distributing toys to isolated children through a referral system in a Partnership for Kids
  • While the doors are closed at the Owen Sound & North Grey Union Library their Facebook page daily provides online interaction such as Toddler Story Time, Tea & Title book club, and have moved their services online. 
  • The Bruce County Library also provides online resources on their Facebook page and is organizing Youth Trivia Nights and other social interactions. 

COVID19 Children/Youth/Family Resources:

  • The Poverty Task Force has a COVID19 COVID19 Community Resource Page which provides Food, Housing, Income & Employment and Transportation support services, Public Health related guidelines/policies and references for working with vulnerable populations. We send out a 2-3 Community Updates weekly. Please contact Jill Umbach to be added to the mailing list. 
  • OMSSA Today has the latest news, policy updates and resources on the human services sector in Ontario. Their COVID19 Resources Page is updated daily if you join as a member or you subscribe to their newsletter.      

Kids and Us Community Childcare & Family Education has a Parent Resource Page.   

A few resources: 

Stay well, Jill