Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 51

Dear Colleagues, 

Our community has come together, to keep it together under this Pandemic. One of the heartbreaking crises continuing to hit our community hard has been the increase of overdoses in the City of Owen Sound and other locations.  This Saturday, March 27th from 9am to 12:30pm the United Way, Safe ‘N Sound and Grey Bruce Public Health will be at the Owen Sound Farmer’s Market to create more awareness and to remember those we have lost. The public is invited to take a carnation, walk the block around the 8th and 9th Street bridges and then drop the flower into the river, to symbolize the loss of those who have died, gone permanently from our community. 


  • We still have spaces for partners to join the The End of Poverty Summit – a nationwide gathering of poverty reduction organizations/cities hosted by Tamarack from 11am May 5th to 5pm May 6th, 2021. Learn more about the guest speakers and workshops at: https://events.tamarackcommunity.ca/the-end-of-poverty.  Contact Jill Umbach, povertytaskforce@unitedwaybg.com, if you are interested in attending this virtual summit. 
  • Plan the Bruce: Bruce County is looking for input as it begins work on a new Official Plan to guide development and growth for the next 25 years. There are currently input surveys open for Housing and Agriculture. You can also contact planthebruce@brucecounty.on.ca to ask about any project and/or provide input. 
  • The Bruce Grey Ontario Health Team has submitted its full application to the Ministry of Health and is now seeking community council advisors. http://ow.ly/HwkF50E3jJ8 

The Province has released Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy. The 2021 Budget is the next phase of Ontario’s response to COVID-19 and is the second Budget the government has delivered during the pandemic. 

  • The 2021 Budget builds on the government’s record investments in response to the global pandemic, bringing total investments to $16.3 billion to protect people’s health and $23.3 billion to protect our economy. Ontario’s COVID-19 action plan support now totals $51 billion.
  • Some HEALTH SUPPORTS include: 
    • A $175 million initiative will provide mental health and addiction supports including mobile clinics for rural communities. 
    • $2.1 million to support victims of crime and domestic abuse survivors. 
    • $1.6 million to address systemic racism.
    • $1 billion over 2 years for vaccine rollout, including $135 million already spent
    • Reiterates plans for hundreds of millions of dollars to build new long-term care beds and improve ventilation. 
    • $4.9 billion over 4 years for hiring 27,000 nurses and PSWs
    • Budget made no promise to retain the planned increase for front-line long-term care workers past June 2021; under review.  
    • Learn more about Ontario’s plan to protect people’s health.  
    • Extending existing grant program, offering $10,000 to $20,000 to about 120,000 affected businesses, for an additional $1.7 billion. 
    • An additional $400 million for tourism industry
    • New Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021. It would provide up to $2,000 per recipient for 50% of eligible expenses, for a total of an estimated $260 million in support to about 230,000 people in 2021.  
    • 3rd round of Ontario COVID19 Child Benefit with payments being doubled to $400 for children up to Grade 12 and $500 for children and youth under 21 who have special needs. 
    • Proposed 20% top up of CARE tax credit for childcare expenses to help families earning under $150,000. Will cost $75 million and will increase support from $1,250 to $1,500 on average/family
    • Task force to address women’s economic barriers will be created. 
    • $2.8 billion for province-wide reliable broadband services in all regions by 2025, part of an overall $4 billion investment. 
    • Learn more about Ontario’s plan to protect our economy.


  • The Federal government has extended COVID19 Benefits to support workers for longer. 
  • Getting Ahead: April 20th is first Getting Ahead for 2021 to be held in Owen Sound. It will be in-person with all the Public Health safety protocols. Individuals on Ontario Works (OW) or ODSP are eligible. People interested should contact their OW or ODSP worker for more info or to register.
  • Ontario Works shall move to a central intake through the Province on April 26th, 2021. A Vision for Social Assistance has been released by the government.


  • For people who are without transportation to access COVID19 vaccination clinics they can call the Public Health Unit Helpline at 519-376-9420, ext 3000 or call 211 and ask about transportation services.
    • MOVIN’GB will arrange transportation for individuals to COVID-19 vaccination clinics and waive the 48 hour requirement to schedule a ride (as long as resources are available to supply ride) Call 519-370-0558 or Intake: 519-372-2091. Email schedulers@hcssgreybruce.com 
  • GTR will start to take cash payment on March 29th, 2021. All riders are required to book their seat in advance, riders wishing to pay by Cash must book their ride over the phone at226-910-1001. Fares range from $5.00 to $3.00 (Adults with student/senior rates and children under 5 ride for free. 
  • GTR will be piloting a new Sauble Beach route from Friday to Monday starting in May to September for the tourism season. This will give an opportunity for employees and tourists to access affordable rides. 


  • Bruce County is experiencing well-recognized and complex housing opportunities and challenges, influencing supply and demand of housing in the region. Give your input and help plan for the supply and mix of homes in Bruce County.  Good planning decisions now can have a positive impact on housing diversity and availability over the next 25 years. There is an Homes: A Guide to Giving Feedback to assist in providing input. 
  • YMCA Housing Stability Workers have been picking up Motel kits from United Way of Bruce Grey. These kits are given to people being provided shelter while they seek out permanent housing. With the rising cost of housing in our area we continue to see high numbers of people seeking assistance. 
  • Motels will be increasing their rates soon for the tourist season and housing services remain busy with trying to find permanent housing solutions. 
  • The Province has announced its new strategy to combat homelessness. The Grey Bruce Homeless Response Table currently has between 45-50 people on the By-Name list with 3 people recently housed. A point-in-time homeless enumeration will be carried out and completed by December 2021. 
  • North Bruce Peninsula has approved the formation of a Municipal Housing Task Force which starts in May 2021. 
  • The Women’s Centre of Bruce Grey will launch its Anti-HumanTrafficking Program on April 5th. Named, “Our Place”, the program is aimed at supporting youth victims and survivors of human trafficking in our community. The program will partner with community agencies to provide wrap-around victim support and will include an educational component for school-aged children that focuses on the signs of human trafficking to youth under 16 years of age.

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 18

Dear Colleagues, 

Basic Income Canada writes that we are at a critical juncture in Canada where emergency COVID-19 benefits can be wound down or reshaped into an ongoing basic income that enables everyone to be part of a better, new normal.

There are panels, briefs and community voices being presented to the government – most recently to the Senate.  

  • We know that we live in a rich country and we can fund programs that are good for the economy and the community.   
  • We know that Basic Income is not a pancrea for people living in poverty.  Lives are too complex for a single solution. 
  • We know that it does not solve the problem of affordable housing, quality accessible childcare or gender inequality in the workplace. 
  • We know that a Basic Income+ would be a supplement to other programs that serve to meet basic needs. 
  • We know that it will not address sexism, racism etc. across our society but that it will move us toward more equity and equality.
    • We know that 56% of women in Canada work in 5Cs jobs: caring, clerical, catering, cashiering and cleaning. 
    • We know that women are 2 times more likely to lose their job or have their hours reduced under COVID19. 
    • We know that many women are now working triple shifts – homeschooling children, unpaid house work and paid at home work.
  • We know that Basic Income+ needs to be a liveable income and be tied with the cost of living.
  • We know that Basic Income+ could enable women’s economic independence, offer greater choices, more flexibility, childcare affordability, more bargaining power in employment and access to better housing & neighbourhoods, improved health and wellbeing.   (Evelyn Forget, 18 June 2020 – Tamarack webinar: Basic Income & Gender Inequality)

The CERB has given some people a taste of what they could gain if a universal basic income program were implemented. CERB was designed to keep people at home. As we reopen our community and country, we need to design a system that will increase people’s ability to fully participate in our society. 


  • CERB Extension:   The Federal government announced that it would be extending the CERB by 8 weeks, making the benefit available to eligible applicants for up to 24 weeks.  But it will begin asking applicants to sign an attestation acknowledging the government wants them to work and directing them to the government’s job bank.     
  • CERB Overpayments: People may have applied for and received CERB when they were not eligible or became ineligible after applying. It is important for people to know that the government is asking those who received CERB in error to repay.  
  • The safest ways to repay CERB overpayments are through CRA My Account or by phoning CRA at 1-800-959-8281.  
  • If someone is unsure about whether they were eligible or not, they can visit the following link for clarification and information on repayment. 
  • Scams using CERB overpayments as their hook have become common. If someone thinks they have received a call, mail, or e-mail from a scammer, they should report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre
  • United Way Financial Literacy Program: can assist families with budgeting, accessing additional income sources if they are not already utilizing them, system navigation along with a sensible and realistic approach to household finances. Will be focused on providing advice for households that have OW, ODSP and CERB interactions as we understand them. Contact Caroline Araujo Abbotts – Financial Literacy Program Coordinator, via advice@unitedwaybg.com or call 519-376-1560, 519-378-4773 (cell).  
  • A COVID-19 aid bill proposed to offer a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $600 for Canadians who have disabilities was defeated. Opposition parties raised concerns about a number of aspects of the bill, including proposed penalties for fraudulently claiming the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.  
  • Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) the government will start accepting new applications for the starting Friday. The government has expanded program eligibility to include farmers.


  • CEAP (Covid-19 Energy Assistance Program)Available to consumers who have fallen behind by at least two billing cycles, but whose accounts were in good standing when the provincial emergency was declared. 
    • Available for those unemployed on the date they apply for funding, and have received Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit since March 17, 2020; 
    • Provide electricity customers with up to $230 in support if they primarily use electricity for heating, or if they use energy-intensive medical devices, and up to $115 otherwise; 
    • Provide natural gas customers with up to $160 if they reside in Northern Ontario, and up to $80 if they reside elsewhere;
  • Wood, Furnace Oil and Propane Support: the United Way isstill processing applications for these sources of heat.  Sewer and Water Arrears: the United Way is working with only households with a disconnection order and in the communities of Owen Sound, Meaford and Saugeen Shores.  The intakes are done by 211 and then processed by Karen Baxter, assist@unitedwaybg.com or 519-376-1560.  Karen can also provide support and knowledge on the rules and regulations. 
  • Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP): all intakes and processing of applications have been halted under the direction of the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).  Those in arrears can apply as soon as the disconnection ban is lifted. 
    • The grant is still $500 and they need to pay what is owing on top of that. People are encouraged to contact the utilities they have outstanding balances with and try to negotiate payment arrangements at this time. 
  • AffordAbility Fund Trust:  assists people who do not qualify for other low-income energy programs. Applicants may be eligible for free energy upgrades that can lower overall home energy use and electricity bills.  Applicants can call 855-494-3863 or email Kim Williams (aft@unitedwaybg.com), Community Activator. 
  • The Housing Action Group: meets weekly to respond to homelessness and COVID19 housing challenges. The group is concerned about recent overdoses and analyzing unsafe conditions or situations exacerbated under COVID19. While Housing workers are seeing more complex cases involving addictions with some deaths there remains a low number of calls to 911/EMS. Trust factors and structural stigma remain factors. Potential solutions are to increase peer-support workers and increase outreach services.   
  • The Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy joined this week’s call. The Opioid Working Group has reconvened and action is being taken to address issues with a harm reduction approach. Dr. Ara has released a statement on recent concerns. 
    • People who use drugs and their friends and family are also encouraged to access naloxone and opioid overdose training. Naloxone works to temporarily reverse an opioid overdose caused by drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone or morphine. 
    • A free Naloxone kit is available at the Grey Bruce Health Unit, no appointment necessary, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. It is also available from some local pharmacies. Find out more at www.ontario.ca/Overdose 
  • Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP): The Province announced that it would be investing $1 million in funding to support families experiencing food insecurity by adapting the Student Nutrition Program to continue to provide school-age children with access to healthy meals and snacks during the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • The OSNP program in Grey Bruce has distributed grocery gift cards and food boxes to families with Federal funding in partnership with the United Way, Bruce Grey Child & Family Services and so many other community partners. 
  • The Salvation Army Chesley Food Bank: starting on July 8th they will be serving the community in a new location at the Chesley Community Church (307 1st Avenue), Wednesday mornings from 9 am to noon.  Appointments can be made by calling 519-364-3450.  Jennifer Sachs is available as the Family Services Worker at 519-364-3450 or jennifer_sachs@can.salvationarmy.org.   
  • The Food Security Action Group meets bi-weekly to discuss logistics, gaps and barriers in emergency food response. Recent challenges identified include the transportation of meals by  frozen meal programs. These programs were operating pre-COVID19 and have significantly scaled up during the pandemic.  But many health staff in South Bruce and South East Grey who have been delivering meals to homes now have caseloads that are too high and the service is evolving, so they cannot continue to make deliveries in July.  Solutions may include establishing Regional Distribution Hubs, staff hiring and new volunteer recruitment. 
  • De-stigmatizing food insecurity: COVID19 has highlighted the need to reach out to isolated seniors. Organizations are seeing that seniors are hesitant to receive charity food. The Tara & Area Food Bank has been working with Bruce County Housing to get the message out that the food banks are community resources that everyone in the community has contributed to ensure their neighbours are taken care of. 
  • Community Meal Programs: continue to see increasing numbers. 
    • OSHaRE: 14,474 meals (JanApril 2020) plus 7,029 meals in May were served for a total of 21,503 meals. Continuing to share extras out with other community meal programs. 
    • YUM Program: South East Grey CHC distributes 100 meals/week supplied by St. Aidan’s Community Meal Program. 
    • St. Aidan’s Community Meal Program: provided 700 meals in May and from June 1-12th has provided 275 meals. 
    • Chesley Baptist Church: provides 90 hot meals/week. 


  • connect2JOBS.ca has been launched by Four County Labour Market Planning Board. 
  • WSIB has extended First Aid Training Certification to Sept 30th, 2020.  WSIB will continue to monitor and adjust this date, if necessary. 
  • To help keep knowledge of First Aid in the workplace at a critical time, the WSIB is endorsing certification and recertification for the knowledge component of the training through a Blended Learning First Aid course.  Individuals would complete the online portion and then have up to 120 days to complete the one day in class portion.  
  • Contact Kathy Murphy Ermel, St. John Ambulance, Grey Bruce Huron Branch by email (kathy.ermel@sja.ca) or leave a message at 519-364-7004 ext. 2 if you wish to arrange training and verify costs. 
  • Enabling Accessibility Fund: for projects that improve the accessibility of persons with disabilities in facilities where they work are a priority with a grant of up to $100,000. To receive funding, your organization must be a: not-for-profit organization; business; small municipality; Indigenous organization (including band councils, tribal councils and self-government entities); territorial government. Applications accepted until July 13, 2020.   


  • The Province announced up to $46 million in new funding over 5 years to increase community-based and Indigenous-specific supports for child and youth victims of sex trafficking. The deadline for applications to the Community Supports Fund and the Indigenous-led Initiatives Fund is July 30, 2020 at 5 p.m.     
  • The Province has announced an additional $10 million for school boards to boost mental health services for students to help them cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.   The additional $10 million is on top of a previously announced $25 million used to hire about 180 mental health workers for Ontario high schools.
  • The Province also announced $15 million for boards to buy about 35,000 computers in total across all school boards.  And $7.6 million for a Summer 2020 Transition Programs for Students with Special Education Needs and Mental Health Concerns.
  • Camp in a Box or Camp Kits: virtual summer camps are being designed by various organizations across Grey Bruce. One such example is a partnership with  The Municipality of Meaford has partnered with The Imagination Studio to bring two Camp in a Box activities: Magic and Science Kit & Camp, and POM POM Sculpture Kit & Camp.      


  • The Province is providing employers with a new general workplace guide to help them develop a safety plan to protect workers, customers and clients through reopening. The guide explains what employers should think about, and provides examples of controls as well as a template for creating a plan. 
  • Volunteer Canada Resources on COVID-19 and Volunteering: Board Governance– Information and resources for boards of non-profit organizations to help navigate governance issues during COVID-19, including virtual annual general meetings and legislative considerations. 

Stay well, Jill