Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 117

Dear Colleagues, 

Food inflation is rising at 9.7% right now.  There has been a 43% increase of food bank visits in Ontario and 1 in 4 children are living in a food insecure home (Stats Can 2021). 

The United Way of Bruce Grey works with community food programs to collect local data on Food Bruce Grey

  • Usage is not going down after the pandemic but increasing. Local food banks have reported the fastest growing population attending food banks are people who are employed. 
  • Meaford Food Bank reported, in the first quarter of 2023, food bank usage has increased by 47% compared to the same quarter last year. The pounds of food distributed has increased by 56%, and the number of first time users of the food bank has increased 200%. 

We know that food banks are a last resort. A recent TVO debate spoke to our social safety net being outsourced to food banks. 

We know that the Federal Funding for a National School Lunch Program was not in the 2023 budget.  We know that schools are one conduit for food support to students and their families. 

  • Across Canada, school food programs are speaking about their struggles to make ends meet right now. With the high price of food, it’s costing some programs as much as 25%  more than previous years to keep running. And they’re seeing higher demand too – more children in need of a balanced meal.

We are concerned that this summer food banks and schools shall need to continue to support families. While support is provided for basic food needs, we need to advocate for “transformational change” that invests in income security such as a basic income. 


  • Basic Income:  Bill S-233 has been sent to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. The next step is to encourage our elected representatives to follow the example of the Senate. 
  • Follow the progress of Bill S-233 – the National Framework for a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income Act – HERE
  • Click on this link to add to the UBIWorks.ca petition and send an email to your MP.  
  • End of Life Guide: the United Way of Bruce Grey has updated this financial  guidebook for people with low income planning for end of life expenditures.  
  • Grocery Rebate: a one-time payment was announced by the Federal government under Bill C-46, the Cost of Living Act. The rebate will be issued automatically by CRA to households with an income of $38,000 or less, and individuals who make $32,000 or less. 
  • There is no need to apply for the grocery rebate. It will be delivered along with the July GST Credit payment. To receive the payment it is required that recipients have filed their 2021 tax return. 
  • The rebate will be up to $467 for eligible couples with two children, $234 for single Canadians without children, and $225 for seniors.


Grey County SOS Mobile Outreach team: recently presented to Grey County council on health equity challenges they have seen working with people experiencing homelessness: 

  • Identification: obtaining or maintaining government-issued identification is a challenge which has an impact on those attempting to receive healthcare services. 
  • Insurance: during COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health established temporary funding for healthcare providers to treat those without coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). 
  • This program improved health outcomes and reduced financial hardship or barriers to healthcare for those without insurance or with lost or expired health cards in Ontario before the Ministry rescinded it as of April 1, 2023
  • The Ontario Medical Association has voiced its concern that ending this program without consultation or a better solution for Ontario’s uninsured would be detrimental to those in marginalized communities, such as people experiencing homelessness, those facing language barriers or mobility issues, or newcomers, migrant workers, and international students without coverage.
  • Call to Action: the Council of the County of Grey calls on the Ministry of Health to a) extend this program by the 6 months requested by the Ontario Medical Association to provide the opportunity for fulsome consultation with healthcare stakeholders; and b) utilize this program’s experience and insight to introduce a new policy that similarly reduces stigma and barriers for those without insurance to access Ontario healthcare and obtain or maintain a health card  


  • Grey Transit Route (GTR): has announced free weekend rides on all Grey Transit Route (GTR) buses from May 20th and until Sept. 3.
  • GTR travels between Owen Sound and Wiarton, Owen Sound and Orangeville and Owen Sound and The Blue Mountains.  It also partners with Shelburne to offer weekend service between Dundalk and Shelburne from April 29 to Jan. 28, 2024, and with South Bruce Peninsula and Bruce County to offer service to Sauble Beach from May 20 to Sept. 4, 2023.
  • Adult fares cost between $3 and $5. People are encouraged to book their rides by calling 1-226-910-1001 or book online. Walk-ons are permitted if there’s room.

Stay Well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 67

Dear Colleagues, 

Health equity issues continue to challenge vulnerable people under the pandemic. Getting a better understanding of inequities has called for more race based health data collection. Statistics Canada has created a new Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Data Hub with COVID19 focused disaggregated data for diverse populations.  

We have moved from 24% of the eligible population fully vaccinated at the end of June 2021 to 60% vaccinated in mid-July 2021. That is a significant increase,  We still need to encourage more people to get vaccinated to achieve target levels to keep ahead of a 4th wave.  Providing low-barrier vaccine clinics is critical now.

Some of the best practices for low-barrier vaccination have been

  • select a safe space
  • select a central location
  • surveillance free environment
  • reach out to diverse populations i.e. Amish, Indigenous, etc. to develop unique strategies  
  • ensure trusted people are on site to provide support and encouragement
  • provide clinics in rural locations outside major towns and cities 
  • walk-in clinics (no appointment) 
  • drive-thru clinics (no appointment)
  • pop-up clinics at locations where people gather i.e. markets, food banks, social housing complexes, etc.
  • no requirement of proof of identification 
  • no requirement of health card
  • no proof of address or postal code
  • paper free process is best but if still being collected
    • allow people to complete forms in advance with support from staff/volunteers
    • have forms available in multiple languages 

Dr. Arra indicated that “the pandemic has unmasked the need for more support for people in our community.” in a Bruce Power town hall COVID19 update event on July 21st. The COVID19 Delta variant has impacted people who are transient and homeless.  It has also impacted people who live in crowded housing and have lower socio-economic status.  

Access to primary care, dental care, paid sick days, living wage, safe & affordable housing and transportation are all social determinants of health. These are but a few gaps in service and barriers people faced before the pandemic but the need has become more evident under the pandemic. 

In Grey County and Bruce

  • 95% of seniors (65+) have access to regular healthcare provider
  • 82.5% of seniors (65+) have access to a medical doctor
  • 53.9% of youth (age 12-17) have access to a regular healthcare provider
  • 54% of adults (age 18-34) have access to a regular healthcare provider 

Overall, access to healthcare providers and/or medical doctors is lower in Grey Bruce than Ontario and Canadian averages. (Source: Grey Bruce Community Health Survey, Stats Can, 2015-2016)  
Response to Opioid Crisis and Harm Reduction Services

  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) has released its Opioid Situation Report #1, July 2021. 
  • In 2020 there were
    • 24 overdose deaths
    • 107 emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses
    • EMS responded to 80 suspected opioid overdoses 
  • The GBHU provides leadership for the Opioid Working Group (OWG) subgroup of the Grey Bruce Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy. It brings together professionals and community members to address the opioid epidemic locally, as outlined in the Grey Bruce Opioid ResponsePlan.  
  • The GBHU has a harm reduction program that includes a needle syringe and naloxone program. 
  • Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC) harm reduction services are not dependent on individuals stopping their use of substances. They take a person-centered approach and meet people where they are at to reduce any health and social harms associated with addiction and substance use. Contact them at 519-376-5508. They are open 8:30-4:30
  • In June 2021, the Big City Mayors called on the government to decriminalize controlled substances in an effort to get ahead of what is being called a drug poisoning crisis. 


  • ODSP is now open from 8:30am-5pm. The front desk will remain closed to the public until further notice. Clients are asked to continue using the interview room to contact the front desk or their caseworker. 
  • Clients are encouraged not to come into the office if they don’t need to and to continue to call, email, fax or use MyBenefits
  • Old Age Security increase and one-time payment
    • $500 one-time payment to older seniors will be delivered during the week of August 16th. This payment is for those seniors who are eligible for OAS pension in June 2021 and were born on or before June 30, 1947. No action is required by seniors, who will automatically receive the payment if they are eligible.
    • In July 2021, OAS benefits will automatically increase 1.3%, bringing the maximum monthly OAS pension amount to $626.49, up from $618.45. The Guaranteed Income Supplement and Allowance will also be adjusted for inflation.
    • In July 2022, there will be a permanent increase of 10% to the OAS pension. This will be for seniors aged 75 and over. This will provide an additional $766 to full pensioners over the first year.


  • Community Needs Grants – Canadian Women’s Foundation
    • New annual grant stream designed to provide one year of flexible funding to cover program costs and/or operational expenses.
    • Target is programming to serve women, girls, Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people in their communities.
    • Deadline: August 6th, 2021 at 4:00pm EDT
    • Approximately 23 grants up to a maximum of $20,000 each are expected to be granted. 
  • Tourism Businesses Grants and Loans – Federal Government
    • The Federal Government is offering a mix of non-repayable grants of up to $100,000 or no-interest loans of up to $500,000 to finance capital improvements. 
    • At least 1/10th of the $500 million available will go to Indigenous tourism operators and organizations for things like workforce training or national projects and will be non-repayable grants, responding to funding concerns from that part of the tourism sector. 


  • Community Transportation Grant Program the Ontario government is extending funding of up to $14 million over2 years for communities providing transportation services in unserved and underserved regions across.  
    • Grey County ($1,850,000 2018-2023, $924,359.66 2023-2025) 
    • City of Owen Sound ($1,246,986.81 2018-2023, $674,054.62 2023-2025). 


  • Four County Labour Market Planning Board is conducting new research 
    • The Precarious Living Series will explore critical factors related to precarious employment. They will create a series of narratives/ infographics/ videos on people in our local workforce who are working and living precariously reflecting on their challenges and struggles. For more information or to participate in the project contact may@planningboard.ca
    • The Impact of COVID19 on Women in the Workforce will examine women’s labour force participation both currently and after COVID-19.  Identifying the extent to which women’s workforce participation has been impacted by the pandemic may help us further understand the overall economic recovery of our region and identify opportunities for recovery. For more information or to participate in the project contact  tingting@planningboard.ca

Stay well, Jill