Complete Guide to Financial Help for Regular Ottawans

(Photo by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash)

Various orders of government and community organizations have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources and supports that have resulted can be difficult to keep track of, so we have compiled a list here that we will update regularly. Residents can also dial 2-1-1 Help Line, which offers referrals to local community, social, government and health services. Find a list of resources for small businesses here.

Municipal Response 

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Updates on Ottawa Public Health’s response to COVID-19 can be found here.

Some important highlights: 

  • The City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force: A Human Needs Task Force has been implemented as part of the City’s Emergency Management Plan and emergency response to COVID-19 to ensure that we are responsive to the emerging needs of the community. Check out their page for support and assistance. The task force is currently focused on service coordination for immediate, medium and long-term response associated with five emerging needs: 
    • Outreach to isolated seniors 
    • Food security 
    • Transportation 
    • Volunteer coordination 
    • Housing and homeless needs 

Human Needs Task Force contact information: 

English: SCS_HNTF@ottawa.ca  

French: SCS_GTBH@ottawa.ca 

Phone number: 613-580-2424 ext. 26753 

  • Employment and Social Services: Financial assistance may be available to help people meet their basic living expenses. Where no other financial resources are available, emergency financial assistance may be provided during a crisis. It is generally for health-related items, such as: 
    • Medicine 
    • Personal care items 
    • Diabetic, surgical, incontinence and ostomy supplies 
    • Mobility devices 
    • Transportation 
    • Housing-related arrears 

For Emergency financial assistance call 3-1-1 and press 4 for social services. Individuals are asked to not visit any Employment and Social Service centre location in person. All requests are to be completed over the phone. Staff will assess which programs residents are eligible for. Existing clients can also call or email their case workers. In addition, Ontario Works has a service available to clients called MyBenefits. It is an online tool that allows clients to report changes or get information about their Ontario Works case. Individuals who have applied for Employment Insurance but are waiting for their first payment can apply for Ontario Works Assistance. 

  • Child Care: The City of Ottawa’s Financial Services Unit will be issuing account credits to eligible families in receipt of a fee subsidy and full-fee families enrolled in Municipal Child Care Centres as a result of child-care services not being available.  Families who have a credit balance on their account will be reimbursed using the same method of payment used to make the original payment All reimbursements are being prioritized and will be completed as quickly as possible.  In addition, preauthorized bank and credit card payments for April 1, 2020 have been temporarily suspended to help support families and will be reassessed as this situation continues to evolve. 
  •  OCTranspo
    File:OC Transpo logo.svg - Wikimedia CommonsTransit riders are being asked to board the back of the bus (except for those with accessibility needs) and OCTranspo will no longer be accepting cash fares or paper transfers. As a result, transit riders can, in effect, use transit without paying a fare (unless they choose to do so using a Presto Card). Transit riders with a Presto Card can change their auto-renew settings at www.prestocard.ca.
     
  • Food Security: Several community partners – including the Ottawa Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, Montfort Renaissance and the Champlain Community Support Network of more than 20 local non-profit agencies – are working to deliver food hampers, hot meals and groceries to seniors and other at-risk residents across Ottawa, including in rural areas. By working with community partners to reach out to rural communities, the City is ensuring all residents have access to food. Anyone who needs food can contact any of these agencies through 2-1-1 or contact these services directly:
  • Hydro Ottawa: 
    Logo | Hydro OttawaAs of March 24, 2020, households, farms and small business who pay Time-of-Use electricity rates will pay only the lowest rate or off-peak rate (10.1 cents/kWh) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hydro Ottawa has already taken pro-active measures to support customers, including: 
    • Extending the provincial winter disconnection ban scheduled to end on April 30, 2020, by an additional three months (July 31, 2020) for all residential and commercial customers. 
    • Suspending all collection actions until July 31, 2020. 
    • Offering flexible payment plans in order to provide customers with more time to pay outstanding balances on their account if needed. Customers seeking financial assistance programs, including emergency relief, can find information on the Hydro Ottawa website. 
  • Water Service: Revenue Services is extending an interest free 30-day payment grace period for all unpaid water bills issued before April 1, 2020 and a 30-day due date extension, for all water bills issued between April 1, 2020 and October 30, 2020, providing residents with 47 days to pay their bill. Pre-authorized debit payments for water bills issued before April 1, 2020 will be withdrawn on the regular due date and pre-authorized debit payments for water bills issued between April 1, 2020 and October 30, 2020 will be withdrawn on the extended due date. Additionally, the City has extended the suspension of all water service disconnections until October 30, 2020. 
  • Ottawa Community Housing:  Concerned about a neighbour in your OCH building? OCH is providing wellness checks. Phone contact: 613-731-1182Ottawa Community Housing’s full response to COVID-19 can be monitored here. 
  • Housing Services: 
    • Households and landlords will get housing allowances and rent supplements one week early to assist with cash flow.  
    • There will be no evictions from social housing during this time. 
    • City staff have reached out to hotels and motels that provide temporary emergency accommodation to provide Ottawa Public Health resources for hotel management, staff and clients. Staff are providing ongoing communications to clients at the hotels. 
    • Ottawa Inner City Health is taking an active role in the shelter system and has a mobile assessment van in operation to visit the shelters on rotation, in addition to having a nurse on call for evenings and weekends.  
    • If you are at risk of housing loss due to shelter arrears, call your Ontario Works/ ODSP Caseworker OR call 311 and press 4 for social services and follow the instructions.
  • Online Resources: The City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force and Ottawa Public Health have prepared this document with information on Financial Resources, Community Resources, Mental Health Resources, and Online Educational Supports.   

The City has compiled a list of services and facilities impacted by COVID-19 here.

Provincial Response 

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T
he provincial government has announced several measures to help residents deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Get the most up to date information on the province’s response to the crisis here. Here are some of the highlights: 

  • Education and Childcare 
    • Support for families: While schools and child care centres are closed, parents can apply for direct funding to offset the cost of buying materials to support their children’s learning, while they practice self-isolation and physical distancing. Eligible parents will receive a one-time per child payment of:
      • $200 for children aged 0 to 12
      • $250 for children or youth aged 0 to 21 with special needs

      This funding can help parents with the costs of work books, educational apps, educational subscription services, movies and other tools to support learning at home.

    • The state of emergency declaration for Ontario required all licensed childcare centres to be closed. The government has since announced that certain centres will be allowed to re-open for the purpose of providing childcare for essential service workers.

    • Provision of emergency childcare options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers. 

    • To assist parents, the province has launched a Learn At Home portal with resources.   

    • Providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief for students. The details can be found here. 
  • Social Service Funding:  
    • The government announced a $200 million fund for social services relief that will be directed towards agencies serving vulnerable Ontarians as well as individuals who do not qualify for emergency federal support, to be administered through Ontario Works. Individuals can apply for this at www.ontario.ca/community.
    • It is also providing additional supports of $26 million to Indigenous peoples and communities, including emergency assistance for urban Indigenous people in financial need, and costs for health care professionals and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations. 
  •  DriveTest, and expiring Licenses / Health Cards: Ontario has closed DriveTest Centres and has introduced measures to ensure Ontarians will not be penalized as a result of this. Read more about that here. They have also extended the validation period of drivers’ licenses, health cards and more. 
  • Health Care: Ontario is waiving the three-month waiting period for OHIP coverage and has announced the province will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for people without health insurance or OHIP coverage.  
  • Seniors:  The government is proposing to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months. Details can be found here. 
  • Hydro Ontario 
    Hydro One
    • Supporting more affordable electricity bills for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers, by providing approximately $5.6 billion for electricity cost relief programs in 2020-21. 
    • Further supporting more affordable electricity bills by setting electricity prices for residential, farm and small business time-of-use customers at the lowest rate, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day for 45 days to support ratepayers in their increased daytime electricity usage as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, addressing concerns about time-of-use metering.  
    • Providing $9 million in direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring that their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for nonpayment during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Federal Response 

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The Federal government is also responding to COVID-19 and has announced several measures to help residents deal with the crisis. Get the most up to date information on the federal government’s response to the crisis hereA Carleton University Professor, Jennifer Robson, has created a document with straightforward instructions on how to apply for things like Employment Insurance, Caregiver Benefits, rent subsidies and others that you can find hereHere are some of the highlights:  

  •  Canada Child Benefit: The government is providing an extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for 2019-20. This will mean approximately $550 more for the average family. This benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May. Those who already receive the Canada Child Benefit do not need to re-apply. Apply for the Canada Child Benefit here. 
  • Special Goods and Services Tax credit payment:  The government is providing a one-time special payment by early May through the Goods and Services Tax credit for low- and modest-income families. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. There is no need to apply for this payment. If you are eligible, you will get it automatically. 
  • Extra time to file income tax returns: The government is deferring the filing due date for the 2019 tax returns of individuals. For individuals (other than trusts), the return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020. They will also allow any new income tax balances due, or instalments, to be deferred until after August 31, 2020 without incurring interest or penalties. Note: If you expect to receive benefits under the Goods and Services Tax credit or the Canada Child Benefit, we encourage you to not delay your 2019 return filing to ensure that your entitlements are properly determined. Learn more here. 
  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): The government will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to: 
    • workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support. 
    • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19. 
    • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures. 
    • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work. 
    • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance. 
    • ODSP & OW recipients will be able to keep part of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Instead of deducting the benefit dollar for dollar, the benefit will be treated as earned income. This means a single person on ODSP/OW will be able to keep $1,100 of the CERB in addition to their regular monthly provincial benefit. They will also continue to receive health and other benefits, and no one will be kicked off the system for exceeding income thresholds. 

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number. Learn more here. 

  • Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB): will provide support to students and new graduates who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance or unable to work due to COVID-19. This benefit would provide $1,250 per month for eligible students or $2,000 per month for eligible students with dependents or disabilities. This benefit would be available from May to August 2020. More details available here soon.

  • Employment Insurance: If you were recently laid off or have reduced hours and qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, you can submit your request here. The federal government is waiving the one-week waiting period for individuals in imposed quarantine that claim EI sickness benefits and is waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access sickness benefits. 
  • Long-Term Income Support for Workers: For Canadians who lose their jobs or face reduced hours as a result of the impacts of the pandemic, the government is: 
    • Introducing an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the Canada Revenue Agency to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment. 
    • Implementing the EI Work Sharing Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process. 
  • Housing and Homelessness: To support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak the government is providing $157.5 million to the Reaching Home initiative. The funding could be used for a range of needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce overcrowding in shelter. Learn more here.
  • Indigenous Community Support Fund: The government will provide $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities. Learn more here.
  • Support for women’s shelters and sexual assault centresThe government is supporting women and children fleeing violence, by providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. 
  • Support for seniors: 
    • Reduced minimum withdrawals for Registered Retirement Income Funds. The government is reducing the required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020. Learn more here
    • The government is also contributing $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports. Ottawa's local United Way can be contacted here.
  • Support for students and recent graduatesA moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student LoansEffective March 30, the government is placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for all student loan borrowers. No payment will be required, and interest will not accrue during this time. Students do not need to apply for the repayment pause. Learn more about the moratorium on the repayment here. 
  • GST Tax Credit for Low-Income Families: A one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC), close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.  
  • National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign: The Government of Canada is working with provincial and territorial governments to respond to COVID-19. They are seeking volunteers to help in the following areas:

    1. Case tracking and contact tracing;
    2. Health system surge capacity;
    3. Case data collection and reporting.

    They are building an inventory of volunteers from which provincial and territorial governments can draw upon as needed. They welcome ALL volunteers as they are looking for a wide variety of experiences and expertise. Visit here for more information.

Community Response 

Various non-governmental organizations and community groups are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by providing various new or enhanced resources and services. Here is a short list: 

  • Resources for Seniors:  
    • Seniors Centre Without Walls (SCWW): Through the use of multi-person phone calls, SCWW provides the opportunity for participants to join in on health and wellness seminars, educational lectures, brain-stimulating activities, listen to live musical entertainment, join in on general conversations, and make new and meaningful friendships – all from the comfort of home!  Call 613-236-0428. Camrose Primary Care Network
    • Chatting to Wellness is hosting free Chatting Sessions for seniors to combat loneliness and isolation. Local university students are available by phone every weekday evening between 6pm – 9pm EST to chat with seniors for 45 minutes at a time. Sign up by visiting www.chattingtowellness.ca/phonechats. Chatting to Wellness logo

  • Resources for Mental Health:  
  • Legal Resources: 
    • Community Legal Services of Ottawa has been operating full-time during the pandemic.  Our offices are closed for in-person visits but our legal clinic staff members continue to work remotely. Residents of Ottawa can call any of our offices for assistance: Downtown Office: 613-241-7008; West Office: 613-596-1641; South Office: 613-733-0140. For more information about our legal clinic’s services, click here. For legal information factsheets about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and other government benefits, click here to visit the Connecting Ottawa website. Community Legal Services of Ottawa / Services juridiques communautaires d'Ottawa

    • Steps to Justice, updated daily, gives answers to more than 80 legal questions, including questions about emergency benefits assistance, Employment Insurance, being evicted for non-payment of rent, and what to do about urgent family law problems with the courts. 

      You can find the legal information you need at https://stepstojustice.ca/covid-19COVID-19 legal questions?

    •  
    • Pro Bono Ontario is still providing free legal assistance to low-income Ontarians for their everyday legal problems. They have pivoted all operations to the Free Legal Advice Hotline and have started developing specialized resources to help answer legal questions related to COVID-19 shut-downs. The Hotline is a safe, convenient way for Ontarians to get help with: 
      • Employment issues  
      • Housing issues 
      • Consumer debt and protection problems 
      • Corporate law for small businesses and non-profits 
      • Powers of Attorney & 
      • Civil litigation* 

Dial 1-855-255-7256. Hours of operation are Monday – Friday from 9:30 am – 11:30 am and 1:00 – 3:30 pm. *PBO does not assist with criminal, family, immigration or estate administration issues. Pro Bono Ontario offers Free Legal Advice by Phone

 

  • Resources for Workers: 
    • The Workers Rights Action Project in Ottawa has launched a new Ottawa Workers Hotline: A hotline for Ottawa workers looking for information and support.  Problems at work? Questions about your rights? Are you worried about health and safety or income support because of COVID-19? Call them at 613-981-3606. The hotline is open Mondays and Thursdays 6-9pm. Text or WhatsApp or leave a voicemail, they will respond to you during these hours. All calls are free and confidential. E-mail: wrap.ottawa@gmail.com. They are offering support in English, French, Spanish, Punjabi, Somali and Tagalog. 
    • Ottawa Public Health has published a letter that employees can offer to employers in lieu of a sick note. 
  • Resources for Tenants:   
    • Ottawa, Keep Your Rent, a coalition of tenants, are, amongst other things, currently offering organizing resources to tenants who want to organize in their building to collectively withhold rent payments. Contact them at Ottawakeepyourrent@gmail.com or at 343-883-5608. Herongate Tenant Coalition (@herongatetc) | Twitter
    • Ottawa Laundromats: Our colleagues in Jeff Leiper's office have put together a map of laundromats that are still open during the current shut-down.
    • Ottawa ACORN, a community union of low-income tenants, has established the ACORN Support Network in response to COVID-19 which: 
      • Engages with people on a regular basis  
      • Gives up to date info on unfolding crisis   
      • Connects people with services available in their community   
      • Gets folks active in ACORN COVID-19 Campaigns 
      • Hosts digital literacy workshops so they can be connected to family and friends 

Get in touch with ACORN through email: ottawa@acorncanada.org, or by phone: 613-746-5999 Fight for Landlord Licensing in Ottawa | ACORN Canada

 

Our office has also compiled a list of local organizations that could use support or are advocating for a more robust response from governments, which can be found here. We are also tracking interest in volunteering here

If your needs at this time are not adequately met by any of the resources below, let us know here, and we will try to connect you with local volunteers or other supports that may be able to help you. 

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