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 # 27

Dear Colleagues, 

A recent Tamarack Institute Community Of Practice call asked members what were we planning for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – October 17th, 2020?  How were we participating in this global #EndPoverty campaign? 

International days are opportunities to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.

This year marks the 28th anniversary of the declaration by the General Assembly, in its resolution 47/196 of 22 December 1992, of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.   This year’s theme has not been announced by the UN yet. The 2019 Theme was “Acting Together to Empower Children, their Families and Communities to End Poverty” and I feel that we could add “under COVID19 conditions” and we would have our theme for 2020.  

Many rural poverty reduction tables were on the Tamarack call and the answer to the question for many was – “What? We are still busy responding to emergency shelter and food issues. We are too busy working on meeting peoples’ basic needs in the community while ensuring people stay safe, when do we have time to advocate for an end to poverty?” 

However, with every short-term “band-aid solution” partners deliver, the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force partners have given thought to long-term solutions.  Our new Impact Report 2020 lists our collective priorities and we know that income solutions are critical.  

  • Maytree policy team suggests Five Good Ideas for Income Supports in a post-CERB Canada:  If we are going to shape a future that recognizes the inherent dignity in everyone, and reduces inequities across race, gender, and income, we need to think beyond traditional economic and social policy thinking from decades past, and move into a post-CERB world. 
  • A Just Recovery For All event will be hosted by Tamarack on October 14th, 1-2pm  to examine the COVID-19 crisis and the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic to health, the economy, environment and society as a whole are being experienced by individuals, families and communities across the country and the globe. 
  • new website is being launched by Coalition Canada: basic income-revenu de base  The Coalition is made up of a cross-Canada group of experienced and knowledgeable activists associated with the Ontario Basic Income Network.  
  • A current major initiative involves developing relationships with Members of Parliament from local constituencies, building towards a (virtual) Lobby Day/Week on Parliament Hill, October 20-22. They invite agencies to visit their website to learn more. 


  • CERB payments: there is a delay in payments for September. Most people are accustomed to receiving the payment by direct deposit within 48 hours of reapplying for it.  Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has introduced new due diligence measures to ensure cheques are reaching the correct bank accounts. People are expected to receive cheques in their accounts by September 4th, 2020.  
  • CEWS Audit – The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is undertaking an audit pilot project to review the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and assess if fraud is a widespread issue. CRA says it has detected a few illegitimate claims but that the “vast majority” of first checks came back clean. 
  • 2020 T4 reporting requirements for Canadian employers – CRA is requiring that all Canadian employers report employment and retro-active payments on T4 Statement of Remuneration Paid slip for defined periods under new codes. The periods align with COVID-19 benefit periods. These reporting requirements are in addition to the existing requirement to report employment income in Box 14 using Code 71. 
  • Mortgage payment deferral programs are ending. 


Parents and teachers are focused on Safe Return to Class guidelines, mental health supports and physical safety of students and teachers.  

  • The Ontario government released itsOperational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools which aims to help schools identify and isolate COVID-19 cases, prevent and minimize outbreaks. The Guidelines call for daily screening of children by their parents, school boards to keep their communities informed and protocols to trigger various levels of public health responses or infection control measures.  
  • Local school boards have released each of their respective Back to School plans. Dr. Arra and the Directors of Education from 2 Grey Bruce School Board met with parents via zoom last week to answer questions about what is being implemented locally. 
  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit has a dedicated COVID19 page for Parents and Families where you will find the latest management plans and protocols. 
  • The Chief Medical Officer of Health also issued, COVID-19 Guidance: School Outbreak Management to support public health units in investigating cases, outbreaks, and suspected outbreaks, a protocol for dealing with students who become ill and determining whether a class or school must be closed.
  • The government intends to surveillance test asymptomatic secondary students. Students will not be required to get a COVID-19 test even if they’re sent home with symptoms. 
  • Social distancing in classrooms is still a question for parents and concerns about intergenerational transmission (grandparents and students) once kids go back to school.  These new guidelines do not cut or cap class sizes.
  • The federal government announced up to $2 billion in support for provinces and territories through the Safe Return to Class Fund. The funding is meant to support adapted learning spaces, improved air ventilation, increased hand sanitation and hygiene, and purchases of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. 
  • The Ontario government announced $381M in federal funding for back to school initiatives, allocated as follows: $200M for implementing reopening plans; $70M for student transportation; $12.5M to enhance special education and mental health supports; $12.5M for additional Public Health nurses; $36M for remote learning; and $50M for future pandemic learning needs.
  • United Way 2020 Backpack Program:  2,600 backpacks have been ordered and are currently being distributed. There remains available backpacks for families. 2-1-1 is no longer taking orders. Please call the United Way office @519-376-1560 if families have not registered or haven’t heard from the program. 
  • The United Way cannot guarantee that we can get backpacks to towns outside of Owen Sound. We are looking for people who are travelling to various locations because our community partners are not open. 


  • The Grey Bruce We CARE Project in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, on September 10th, is offering awareness kits to the community which include a window poster, sidewalk chalk, positive messaging mirror stickers, a battery operated candle for your window, a colouring contest and a double-yellow awareness ribbons. 
  • If your family, business or organization would like a kit for your location, please email jralph@cmhagb.org.  For more details on the colouring contest, please visit www.facebook.com/thegreybrucewecareproject  
  • Partnership for Kids Grey Bruce: In the 3 months of this initiative, 551 children received a new toy, craft or game to help mitigate the negative mental health effects of isolation during the early stages of COVID-19.   
  • The Scenic City Order of Good Cheer and volunteers from Martin School Transit and The Rocking Horse traveled over 10,000 km across our vast geographic region of Grey and Bruce to deliver the toys to the children.  
  • The GO FUND ME page and additional donations raised $33,210.00, which went directly to the purchase of good quality toys, crafts and games for those most in need children.  

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #26

Dear Colleagues, 

Day 149, 22 weeks. How is everyone doing? 

Rev David Shearman wrote an article for the Owen Sound Sun Times highlighting some of the data from our Community Updates and he highlights the losses to the nonprofit/charity sector as fundraising events have been canceled in 2020.  We continue to be grateful for government and non-government funding that allows our partners to continue to provide emergency services and other essential services. 


Across all our partner organizations we have been monitoring the government’s income support and the transformation of the CERB.   

  • The federal government is extending the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) until 27 September, 2020 and revamping the employment insurance program to allow more people to receive financial assistance during COVID-19.  
  • Self-employed or gig workers can apply for a benefit of up to $400 a week for up to 26 weeks if they have stopped working or had reduced incomes due to COVID-19.  They can continue to earn money, but will be required to repay 50 cents of every dollar earned above $38,000.
  • A second new benefit will provide 10 days of paid sick leave to any worker in Canada who falls ill or has to self-isolate due to COVID-19. That will provide $500 a week, and a claimant can’t claim this benefit and another sick leave payment at the same time.    
  • recent report from RBC Economics called the hit on women’s employment  “unprecedented,” with 1.5 million women in Canada losing their jobs in the first two months of the pandemic.  Women’s participation in the Canadian workforce has fallen to a level not seen in decades, and with uncertain school plans and reduced options for child care, some women are not returning to work. 

Basic Income

  • Tamarack and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction hosted a webinar, Basic Income: Business Perspective, to explore what a Canadian Basic Income would mean for business, the economy, and society. 
  • On Friday, August 14th, UBI Works released a plan called “Recovery UBI” which proposes $500/month tax free for all Canadian adults and a guaranteed minimum income of $2,000/month ($3,000/month for couples).
  • In September 2020, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce will propose a resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The resolution, if passed, will ask the Federal Government to run a Basic Income Pilot and study the costs and benefits of rolling out a national basic income thereafter should that be the findings of the pilot. The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s impetus is to address future labour market disruptions.
  • Sameer Nurmohamed of the Basic Income Canada Network proposes a plan called “UBI-FIT: Using the Tax System to Fund a Basic Income” which proposes an annual Basic Income of $24,000 tax free for everyone and a flat income tax rate of 38%. 


  • The United Way of Bruce Grey’s Financial Literacy Program Coordinator, in partnership with the YMCA, will be hosting a webinar on Budgeting in Tough Times on Monday, August 24th from 10:00am-11:00am.


  • The federal government will be partnering with Second Harvest, Food Banks Canada and more than 100 food businesses and non-profit organizations to deliver a new Surplus Food Rescue Program
  • Grey Bruce Community Food Programs are connected with the Foodrescue.ca program of Second Harvest via OSHaRE and connected to Food Banks Canada through the local Salvation Army Owen Sound and some other larger food banks who are members. We have created 2 Distribution Hubs to community meals programs via OSHaRE and to food banks via The Salvation Army Owen Sound.
  • A new Grey Bruce Community Gardens Coordinator and a Food Security Coordinator have been hired to support more links between partners and the work of these distribution hubs and community-based hubs. Fresh produce has been moving from the Meaford Community Gardens and other local producers to food banks and community meal programs. 
  • Overall, we have seen an increase in food bank usage which is being attributed to the ending of CERB for some individuals. 
  • We have also seen an increase in people at the food banks who have received eviction notices in the last week with very short lockouts times (2-3 days notice).  People who have received eviction notices should contact the Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic immediately or contact Grey County or Bruce County to assist with rent arrears prior to eviction notices. 
  • South East Grey Community Health Centre will be opening up a new Community Cafe in Dundalk at its Erskine Centre.  Newly purchased freezers and kitchen equipment will enable cooking healthy meals, get fit program and a distribution point for ready-made frozen meals (YUM Program). 
  • CMHA Roots Cafe will be opening up soon for curbside service in Owen Sound. Community Gardens have staggered food production and are producing lots of fresh produce for community hot and frozen meals.   


  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit has updated its Considerations for Shelters guidelines
  • As mentioned above, within the last week there has been a large number of eviction notices going out from the Sheriff’s office.  Contact the YMCA Housing, Bruce County Housing, Grey County Housing or M’Wikwedong IFC housing program about rent arrears supports. There is funding to pay arrears and with the low vacancy rates across Grey County and Bruce County it is easier to negotiate with landlords than to re-house people. 
  • Contact the Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic for a stay of eviction. 
  • People are encouraged to “make a winter housing plan” now and that is looking at ability to pay rent, pay utilities, etc. and contact 2-1-1 or see the Grey Bruce Community housing or utility support services
  • YMCA Housing is organizing “boots to the ground” meetings with partners to increase lines of communication/protocols between housing partners.  Recent joint wellness checks of tent encampments in Owen Sound raised no major concerns. 
  • Several housing agencies and the Grey Bruce Health Services reported an increase of out-of-region clients seeking housing and other support services in the last month.   
  • Transitional housing: M’Wikwedong IFC is busy on new transitional housing for Indigenous communities. Safe ‘N Sound is updating its transitional housing program. Grey County has a wait list of over 600 people waiting for social housing and are always looking for investment dollars for transitional/second stage housing.  


  • The Guelph Owen Sound Transportation, (‘GOST’) transit service will begin operations on Monday, August 31, 2020.  The service will operate seven days a week.  The route will start from the Owen Sound Transit Terminal and stop at Chatsworth, Williamsford, Durham, Mount Forest, Arthur, Fergus and Elora before arriving at the final destination of Central Station in Guelph. The service will be provided by Voyago, who will use a brand new, fully accessible 20+2 passenger bus.


  • Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health Dr Ian Arra will join Lori Wilder, Director Bluewater District School Board and Gary O’Donnell, Director Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board for a Facebook Live forum on safe and successful school re-opening. 
  • The event will be hosted on the Grey Bruce Health Unit Facebook Live page starting at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 26, 2020. The session will be recorded and made available on the Grey Bruce Health Unit YouTube channel. 
  • Questions for the participants can be forwarded to the Grey Bruce Health Unit through Facebook message, through the ‘Contact Us’ page on our website, or by email to publichealth@publichealthgreybruce.on.ca.

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 21

Dear Colleagues, 

Be kind!” is the message coming from the Grey Bruce Health Unit this week as we move to Stage 3 of reopening and the mandatory use of masks.  I have attached a few new posters created by the Grey Bruce Health Unit Communications Team regarding masks. #strongertogetherGB

  • Concerned about what ‘reopening’ means for area charities and non-profits? Have questions? Want answers?  There will be a moderated Q & A call with Dr. Arra for Not-for-Profits and Charity organizations on July 28th, 1:30-3:00pm in which Dr. Arra.    
  • Please register here and ask your burning questions in advance!  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CWWGW3R

A morning smile is the announcement by the Ontario government of proposed  changes that would provide additional protection for payday loan borrowers by capping interest rates and fees on defaulted loans, ensuring that workers and families who use payday loan services can keep more of their hard-earned money. The changes were included in the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 and will be amendments to the Payday Loans Act, 2008. 

  • Lenders would not be permitted to charge interest in excess of 2.5 per cent per month (non-compounded), providing rate relief to borrowers unable to repay their loans on time.  
  • A maximum fee of $25 that may be charged by lenders for dishonoured or bounced cheques or pre-authorized debits.  


  • ODSP will send information about CERB reporting and how it will impact ODSP monthly payments to all ODSP recipients who reported CERB. Income from CERB is treated similarly to how earnings are treated under ODSP. The amount of the CERB that is deducted from ODSP depends on the situation of the person receiving it. For individuals under 18 or in full-time secondary or postsecondary school, CERB is fully exempt, meaning that it does not get deducted from ODSP payments. For everyone else, the CERB is partially exempt: The first $200 received in a month is fully exempt and a 50 per cent exemption will apply for each additional dollar, no matter the total amount of CERB payments collected.
  • ODSP Grey Bruce’s hours are changing: effective August 4, 2020, service delivery hours will return to regular hours of 8:30am-5:00pm, from the current hours of 10:00 am– 2:00pm. 
  • This is not a return to regular client services.  Existing health and safety measures related to COVID-19 continue to be followed. Clients will continue to be served via secure methods such as over the phone, via intercom and in secure rooms. They will limit the number of face to face interactions with clients to where it is necessary to ensure client service.
  • new report by Statistics Canada outlines how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Indigenous respondents. 36% of Indigenous respondents reported that the pandemic had a “strong or moderate” impact on their ability to pay for essentials while 25% of non-indigenous respondents reported the same. Despite experiencing higher levels of hardship, fewer indigenous respondents reported applying for government support. 
  • Recent polling by the Native Women’s Association of Canada found that Indigenous women are experiencing greater financial difficulties (46%) than other Canadians (34%) and the financial impact of COVID-19 closely correlated to rates of domestic violence against Indigenous women.
  • The Senate Finance Committee urged the Federal Government to work with Provincial, Territorial, and Indigenous Governments to “give full, fair and priority consideration” to a Basic Income in their COVID-19 Relief in times of Crisis report.


  • A recent article from the Canadian Medical Association Journal takes an equity-informed perspective on emerging trends and interventions to reduce the impact of COVID on those experiencing homelessness. 

Recently, Tamarack hosted a cross-country rural communities and housing discussion and some of the highlights of the discussion were:

  • Funding – Emergency funding for sheltering people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic has demonstrated how quickly things can change when there is political will. Once funding for COVID-19 is gone, the solutions that were developed will likely not be sustainable. 
  • Short-term solutions – Many who were homeless prior to the pandemic are now being temporarily housed in hotels and motels. While there have been some benefits to this intervention, there is widespread recognition that this is a short-term solution and not permanent housing. There are concerns about long-term availability at motels/hotels as communities open up for tourism and concerns around how long government funding will last. 
  • Wrap around services – Food delivery programs, transportation assistance, internet and cell phone distribution, wellness checks, and mental health and addictions support have been an important element that has been coupled with housing responses during the pandemic. 
  • Housing supply – Lack of affordable housing stock in rural communities continues to be a major barrier in providing long-term solutions, even when funding is available for wrap around services such as mental health supports. 
  • Collaboration – Partnerships around housing and homelessness have improved since the onset of the pandemic. There is hope these new collaborations will be sustained into the future. 
  • Data – There is a need for more data to get an accurate picture of housing and homelessness in rural communities. Point-in-time counts prior to the pandemic may no longer be accurate. 
  • Recovery planning – Housing is not seen as a key focus of most COVID-19 recovery plans. Members are seeing plans being developed at provincial and federal levels rather than local or regional levels.

In Grey County and Bruce County, housing and homelessness remain important priorities.  A July 9th, 2020 report to Council reported on the County’s work, partnerships and next steps. The full report is attached. 

Stay well, Jill