Task Force Blog

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #24

Dear Colleagues, 

The Ontario government has recognized the work of non-profit organizations and volunteers to deliver vital services under COVID19 and the economic challenges of keeping services in place. 

  • The Ontario government announced a new one-time Resilient Communities Fund to invest in the recovery and rebuilding efforts of the non-profit sector impacted by COVID-19.   
  • The Ontario government is investing $83 million through the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to provide grants to help eligible non-profit organizations, including food banks, child and youth programs and Royal Canadian Legion branches, recover from COVID-19 and continue the delivery of vital programming in their communities  

Organizations can apply for one or more of the following, to: 

  • Equip board members and employees with supports to implement new approaches, prepare for change and build resiliency (e.g. organizational training and coaching, strategic planning and implementation, research & development; mental and physical health and wellbeing supports) 
  • Improve and increase ability to access financial resources and develop new and/or alternative sources of revenues (e.g. develop fundraising plans, identify fundraising and financial technology resources, seek opportunities for public-private partnerships and social finance) 
  • Adapt or re-imagine the delivery of programs and services to meet the needs of the community, employees and volunteers (e.g. identify new health and safety processes and required personal protective equipment; technology supports; staffing and volunteer recruitment and training). 
  • Procure equipment or renovate spaces to meet the changing needs of the organization; its programs and services, and adapt to new ways of working (e.g. equipment and/or renovations to meet changing technology health and safety, and service delivery requirements). 
  • Create and/or adopt new approaches for organizations to work together to meet the needs of communities (e.g. peer learning, professional development, networking, resource, knowledge and data sharing)
  • Request amount: From $5,000 to $150,000 for up to 1 year. 
  • Application Deadlines*: September 2, 2020 at 5 pm ET. and December 2, 2020 at 5 pm.    

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic: with the COVID19 eviction ban ending on August 4th, we anticipate that tenants will be seeking the services of various agencies in Grey Bruce. The Landlord-Tenant Board is open and taking new applicants but we encourage people to contact local agencies to support them with rental issues. 
  • The Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic supports tenants to mediate disputes.  However, Funding for Legal Aid has already been negatively impacted by Covid 19 and there is concern that services will be negatively impacted without additional support from the government. 
  • YMCA Housing:  the YMCA also assists people who are having difficulties in their current housing through landlord mediation, and they provide landlord and tenant education, or coaching for those who simply need information to help them in their own housing search. Their website provides landlords resources and tenants resources.
  • Community Housing Supports List has been updated
  • Ontario Non-Profit Housing Corporation has provided a useful analysis of Bill 184.   

MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION SUPPORTS

  • On July 21st, Grey Bruce Public Health issued an overdose alert after receiving confirmation from county paramedic services of 6 opioid poisonings within 5 days across the Grey-Bruce region. There are now at least 9 cases reported recently for a total of 16 confirmed deaths in 2020. 
  • For more information about harm reduction practices and addiction services, visit the Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy website at www.drugstrategy.org.  
  • CMHA Grey Bruce Mental Health and Addiction Services is pleased to resume group services at Community Connections.  Verify the re-opening weekly schedules on their website.  

INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

  • Community Income Supports List has been updated
  • Seniors Income Supports: If you are 65 or older and receive Old Age Security (OAS), you may be eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS). 
  • Find our more at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/publicpensions/cpp/old-age-security/guaranteed-income-supplement.html  and at https://www.ontario.ca/page/guaranteed-annual-income-system-payments-seniors#section-3 
  • You must complete your taxes each year to reapply for GIS and GAINS. Call 211 for information about your closest free community volunteer income tax clinic. 
  • Library services in Bruce County and Grey County are re-opening branches to the public for regular in-person services. 
    • Bruce County: as of Monday, August 17th, all 17 branches of the Bruce County Public Library will be open to the public. For those who would prefer to not come inside the branches, their curbside pickup service will continue to be offered.
    • Public computers will be available for patron use by appointment, and patrons are asked to wear a face covering and must maintain proper social distancing while visiting the branches.
    • Programming will remain online. Digital materials and services are always available 24/7 at library.brucecounty.on.ca.
    • Grey County:  The Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library is set to reopen to the public on August 11th, with capacity and visit time limits in place.  
    • The library has been offering curbside pickup since June 16th.It will be open Tuesdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Wednesdays to Fridays from noon to 5 p.m. as the first stage of its reopening plan. Library capacity will be initially capped at 20 people at a time, not including staff, and each person can visit for up to 30 minutes per day,
    • A limited number of public computers will be available for use with a computer pass, which will be available at the information desk. Public printing and photocopying will be available with staff assistance.  

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 23

Dear Colleagues, 

COVID19 pandemic has created more opportunities for reflection on the work that we do and it has certainly promoted discussions at all levels of government and across Ministries; and with nongovernmental agencies. Together everyone is working to find solutions to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.  

Mohammad Karamouzian who is a member of the Trudeau Foundation COVID19 Impact Committeewrites that COVID19 is not a “great equalizer” but it has exposed a range of pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequities in our communities.  He recommends that solutions being found now should not disappear after the pandemic subsides. 

  • The federal government announced today that it will transition recipients of the CERB to the Employment Insurance (EI) program this fall.  It was also announced the Federal government will also create a “transitional, parallel benefit” that is similar to EI for people who don’t qualify for the unemployment benefit, such as contract and gig workers.  
  • The Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives released its Alternative Federal Budget Recovery Plan.  Attached are some chapters from the Plan on poverty, gender equality, racial equality and housing.
  • The Institute for Gender and the Economy at the Rotman School of Management and YWCA Canada co-wrote A Feminist Recovery Plan for Canada that outlines 8 recommendations for how to make the economy work for everyone. They also have an engaging website: https://www.feministrecovery.ca/.  

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • Schools Reopening: The Ontario government has announced that children/youth will be back to school full-time in September.
  • CERB Payment:  The last scheduled CERB pay period is set to end on Sept. 26.  
  • CERB Repayment: Any Ontario Works or ODSP clients who have received CERB/CESB benefits, and are later notified that they have been found to be ineligible for those benefits, are advised to contact their caseworker as the treatment of these situations are unique to individual circumstances.  
  • The CRA does usually garnish CPP, OAS, HST, etc. if there are debts owing to the federal government, however, the CRA is currently not garnishing any federal income sources. ie Disability Tax Credit one-time payment or OAS. 
  • Recipients who were not eligible are asked to repay as much as possible before December 31st, 2020. The CRA will discuss repayment plans with recipients. These can be as low as $25 a month. 
  • Anyone with questions about their CERB/CESB eligibility is advised to contact the CRA directly, or visit their website for information on how to return the CERB/CESB benefits. 
  • Income Tax filing, payment and benefits:  the CRA is now reporting that some Canadians will face payment delays if the CRA can’t process their 2019 returns before the beginning of September. 
  • For late-filers, the CRA has been using 2018 tax-year information to calculate the CCB and GST/HST credit amounts for July, August and September. But those payments could stop in October 2020 if the CRA doesn’t receive a 2019 return by September 30th, 2020. 
  • Some people may have to repay the CCB and HST/GST credits they received for July, August, and September if they do not file by September 30th.
  • Community Volunteer Income Tax Clinics – If you are running a CVITP, please ensure your information is up to date with 211.  Free Income Tax Clinics 2020 are listed on 211. 
  • Grey County Social Services has relocated its Markdale Ontario Works satellite office to the South East Grey Community Health Centre.   
  • Grey County Ontario Works services continue to be delivered remotely and program recipients should contact their regular caseworker.  New applicants should call 519-376-7324 or apply online.  

ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORTS 

  • The YMCA has created a new video: Dealing with Difficult People under COVID19 conditions. This short video aims to assist employees to develop strategies for handling situations that arise when implementing new health and safety protocols  such as wearing face coverings, physical distancing, hand sanitizing etc.  
  • PPE: Bruce County businesses can now apply for a grant of $1,500 to offset the cost of COVID-19 safety supplies; a total of $250,000 is available. Details are attached. 

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS 

  • Community Food Programs in Grey Bruce are working through the summer to grow food, deliver meals and food baskets.
  • The United Way of Bruce Grey has granted $390,000 in Emergency Community Support Grants.  
  • Close to 700 meals were distributed by mid-July by the YUM Program out of South East Grey Community Health Centre. 525 meals in June.
  • Habitat for Humanity will continue to deliver supplies, meals and produce until the end of December 2020.
  • The Salvation Army Owen Sound has distributed $12,900 in gift cards to clients to ensure that non-Christian clients can purchase appropriate meat based on religious practices. The Salvation Army Owen Sound continues to share surplus food with all food banks. 
  • Many food banks and kitchens have received Emergency Community Support Funds to increase their capacity with new equipment such as freezers. 
  • Several new initiatives were funded including the Community Garden Network and Community Living Peninsula Food Security Project to improve the flow of fresh produce to food banks and community meal programs. 
  • The YMCA summer camps have received $6,000 in funds to distribute $25 gift cards to parents to send lunches. 
  • M’Wikwedong staff are supporting clients to access $150 food cards from Nawash program with applications to be completed by August 31st, 2020.

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • With low vacancy rates, wait lists for housing and complex cases involving homelessness, mental health and substance misuse housing workers are challenged to find lasting solutions. In the first half of July, the YMCA housed 20 people and provided 234 nights of shelter to 45 people. 
  • The Grey Bruce Public Health issued an overdose alert after receiving confirmation from county paramedic services of 6 opioid poisonings within 5 days across the Grey-Bruce region. 
  • Wellness checks continue with the OPP, CMHA and YMCA Housing on tent encampments. 
  • Bill 184 was passed and there are concerns about the impact on tenants when the eviction ban is lifted.  

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORTS

  • Grey County Transit Route (GTR): announced it is negotiating with Driverseat to run its new service.  Grey County’s plan is to launch its Highway 10 route at the start of September, followed by its Highway 26 route in mid-September, its Highway 6 route in early October and its Grey Road 4 route in early to mid-October.

ANTI-RACISM

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 22

Dear Colleagues, 

For many of us, the majority of our work involves navigating social support systems with people to ensure access. At the Poverty Task Force, our work involves identifying and addressing systemic barriers. 

Some days, it feels like the system is a series of holes that are getting deeper for people to climb out of.  No matter how hard people dig and how many shovels we give them – they have to dig deeper to get out of one hole only to have another hole open up next to them. For example, we welcomed the income support of CERB but we and anti-poverty groups are now worrying about repayment by people who may find themselves ineligible. 

  • The Perth-Huron Social Research and Planning Council has released a discussion paper, “Making a Livable Income: The Next Layer of Protection”. The paper promotes and discusses the practicalities of a Universal Basic Income. The paper highlights that “rural areas and small towns would also be the biggest winners economically, from a Basic Income because small towns and rural regions would see the largest stimulus effects of a Basic Income.”
  • The United Way of Bruce Grey has released the numbers for its Utility Assistance Program. Despite not being able to meet with clients from mid March, 2020 and an extended utilities disconnection ban through to July 31st, there wasn’t a significant decline in the number of households seeking support. 
  • The Meeting Place in Tobermory is a ‘community hub’ providing a unique blend of rural social support to those who may be in stressful situations, are isolated or need system navigation. In their recent Annual Report, they reported they have seen a significant increase in clients under COVID19. 
  • The Community Connector expressed her concerns “that many people collecting CERB have not put away some of their benefits to pay the tax on it come next tax season …  Many clients, and myself, are concerned with what will happen come fall. With the late start to the season, what will EI look like? The majority of clients rely on EI for income, and barely get enough hours to collect benefits for 4-5 months. Will they even qualify this year? If they do, will it run out in February?”   

INCOME SUPPORTS 

Under COVID19, the government announced a ban on disconnects for natural gas and electricity for non-payments.  As of August 4th, 2020,the utility disconnect ban will end.  

  • Customers who were behind in payments prior to March 2020 will be targeted for disconnection first. They should expect collection activities and disconnection orders to be issued.  
  • The United Way of Bruce Grey has pulled together an update on the rules and processes to be followed on utility disconnections. (See Attached) along with other supports.
  • Call 211 for eligibility criteria and how to apply to various utility support programs.    
    • LEAP (Low-Income Energy Assistance Program) will open again when the disconnection ban ends.  This assistance is only available if you are behind on your bill payment and may be facing a service disconnection. 
    • CEAP (COVID19 Energy Assistance Program) is available to customers who 1) have an account in good standing on March 17th, 2020, 2) failed to make full payment on at least 2 bills issued since March 17th, 2020, 3) have an overdue balance on the date of their application to CEAP and 4) have not received any LEAP or OESP funding in 2020. 
  • Canada Child Benefit:  starting in July 2020, the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit will increase to keep pace with the cost of living.  CCB is based on a family’s income from the previous year and is tax-free.  That means: 
    • up to $6,765 per child under age 6 
    • and up to $5,708 per child age 6 through 17
  • Disability payment: a one time tax free, non-reportable payment of $600 will be distributed to people with disabilities and their families as they face new costs and navigate challenges due to COVID-19.    The one-time disability payment — which originally was only going to benefit Canadians who qualify for the federal disability tax credit — will now also go to those receiving disability benefits through the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan and Veterans Affairs Canada.  
  • Wage Subsidy – The Federal Government passed legislation (C-10) that makes changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The changes include changing eligibility to expand the number of businesses eligible, changes the amount companies can put toward their worker’s wages, and extends the program to the end of the year.  

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORTS

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.  

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • 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.

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • 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