Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 50

Dear Colleagues,

Precarious employment is one important variable influencing the extent to which individuals are able to withstand the economic fluctuations caused by COVID-19. The Four County Labour Market Planning Board has been delving deeper into precarious employment with a series of COVID-19 Impact Surveys

  • National and provincial research both show that those who were more vulnerable to economic changes and labour market instability before COVID-19 have experienced greater hardships due to the pandemic. They are more likely to be currently unemployed or working in jobs with less stability. They are also more likely to be working in sectors where work cannot be performed remotely, thereby creating stress due to the often additional risk of exposure, as well as needed access to childcare for parents required to work outside the home during this pandemic. The local survey data aligns with these overall findings.
  • Compared to those who are not precariously employed, individuals who are currently precariously employed are more likely to be: younger, have lower educational attainment and approximately 1 in 4 respondents has at least one dependent child living at home. 
  • The Spring 2020 survey analyzes the results in order to understand the initial impact COVID-19 had on our local workforce. 
    • Locally, the Stratford-Bruce Peninsula Economic Region saw unemployment move from 5.9% in March to 9.3% in May 2020, with a corresponding decrease in the number of people employed in the region. In order to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the local workforce, the Four County Labour Market Planning Board conducted an anonymous and confidential survey  between April and June 2020. 
    • When asked about the extent to which respondents felt confident in their ability to continue to work or to find work after the COVID-19 crisis, 22% responded that they strongly disagreed or somewhat disagreed with this statement. 
    • Respondents were also asked about the extent to which COVID-19 was impacting key household considerations. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the following percentage of respondents are somewhat or significantly more worried about their ability to pay bills, have enough food and to pay rent/mortgage.
  • The Fall 2020 surveyreviews the results when there were signs of economic recovery in order to understand the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. 
    • The survey reveals that approximately 25% of respondents are concerned about their ability to continue working or find new work after the pandemic.
    • This finding may provide opportunities for local training programs, employment counsellors and other supportive services to assist those whose employment status may be more uncertain than it was before COVID-19.
    • Similarly, the 33% of respondents who reported that COVID-19 has had a substantial impact on their ability to pay for basic necessities could be targeted for additional support and services in our local communities. 

The Planning Board is working on an ongoing project exploring the impact of different scenarios that may emerge in the next 12-24 months, and how they will impact both the workforce and employers in our region. For more information about the COVID-19 Scenario-Based Planning project, please see www.planningboard.ca or contact Tingting Zhang tingting@planningboard.ca

  • The Ontario government has announced it is expanding the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to include nearly 600 micro-credential programs. Through this initiative, the province is ensuring loans and grants will be available to more learners looking to rapidly upskill and reskill for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow. 

The Community Foundation Grey Bruce has been surveying the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Not-For-Profit Sector. Two surveys have been carried out with the first in April/May 2020 and the second in early 2021. 
In April/May 2020 local organizations remained optimistic about the future. The survey results revealed that many local organizations are concerned about financial difficulties, even possibly facing closures in the future, but anticipate an increased need for their services, particularly related to food security and mental health support. 

  • Of the respondents, 87% identified the cancellation of events and/or fundraising activities as a challenge being experienced. 
  • Over 40% of the organizations face financial difficulties and many will need to adjust how they operate to remain viable in the future. 
  • The current restrictions have resulted in 60% of local organizations closing until these restrictions can be lifted with many organizations concerned about how they will generate momentum for public gatherings. Aside from their own impact from COVID-19, many respondents identified the loss of income and jobs as the biggest concern for our community and are worried about the closure of many small businesses and organizations. As the community continues to face uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, many organizations have found new ways to work and are encouraged by the way locals have come together to help each other demonstrate a strong sense of community. 

Recently, these same organizations were surveyed to see how they are doing as the pandemic continues: 

  • The survey results show that fundraising continues to be a challenge for many area charities.  About a third (34%) of organizations responding to the survey, indicated they have only been able to maintain less than 25% of their fundraising compared to the previous years while 22% reported that they were able to maintain 75 to 100% of their fundraising goals.
  • In terms of ranking the type of funding that their organization needs to keep their doors open, 42% of respondents identified operational funding as their top need.  Program grants were second in ranking overall.
  • Other comments made by respondents included the challenges of technology for themselves and their clients, increased operating costs of program delivery, donor fatigue and struggles with engagement of members, volunteers, clients, and the community during these difficult times.
  • Community knowledge helps the Community Foundation grant strategically. Local charities and non-profits organizations across Grey and Bruce counties are invited to apply for Community Grants with a deadline of April 15, 2021.  For this intake only, the allowance for operational support for projects has been increased to a total of 25% of the budget. Visit ://communityfoundationgreybruce.com/grants/community/ to access the online application form.


  • Housing vacancy rates remain low and finding available housing for vulnerable people is still very challenging. 
    • Women’s Shelters still remain at 50% capacity and second stage housing is maintaining wait lists as they are extending stays and searching for homes for women and their families. 
    • Organizations are seeing an increase in Indigenous people needing housing – those that are leaving jails, moving off-reserve or coming from other regions. 
    • The YMCA Housing and M’Wikwedong are working with children’s services with many young people age 16-17 to find appropriate housing and supports. 
    • The YMCA completed a recent update of COVID19 protocols with motels that are serving as shelters and re-stocked COVID19 PPE. 
    • While affordable housing is a key topic for many municipalities and new housing task forces are being created, we are also seeing a need do more community education with more “Yes, In My Backyard” or YIMBY campaigns. 
  • The province has announced funding to retirement homes. It will provide Grey Bruce retirement homes with $417,920.10 in funding to assist with COVID-19 costs such as hiring, training and testing additional staff, and sanitizing residences and purchasing supplies to prevent and contain the spread of infection. This funding is in addition to the $30.9 million that the province provided retirement homes earlier in the pandemic.


  • An OPIOID Alert has gone out from the Grey Bruce Health Unit. Please see the attached alert for more details on the warning and available supports. Please circulate!  
  • Safe ‘N Sound and the United Way of Bruce Grey have worked together to provide compensation for returning needles or “sharps” in sharp containers. In June 2020, some 16,000 needles were returned. To date, 33,540 needles have been returned. 


  • 9 Grey Bruce Community Partners have provided more than 150,000 free, hot and frozen meals to vulnerable residents in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The Food Bruce Grey app shows an average of nearly 400 of the prepared meals are now provided each day and a monthly record was set in February of 15,900 meals distributed. 
  • Many of these programs are “at capacity” and cannot do much more with the staffing and volunteer resources they have. The volunteer efforts have been incredible and along with the staff of these agencies they are heroes in responding to the pandemic! Most likely these meals will continue throughout the spring and summer as curbside services. 


SAVE THE DATE – the next Poverty Task Force meeting is Friday, April 23rd, 10am-11:30am.

Stay well, Jill