News

Ontario Supports Those Struggling with Electricity Bills during COVID-19

TORONTO — The Ontario government announced that it will continue to support provincial electricity consumers by providing stability and greater customer choice, while helping those struggling to pay their energy bills as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Details of the new programs were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Bill Walker, Associate Minister of Energy.

Initiatives include:

  • $9 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) to support consumers struggling to pay their energy bills during the pandemic. CEAP will provide one-time payments to consumers to help pay down any electricity bill debt incurred over the COVID‑19 period. Applications will be available through local utilities in the upcoming months;
  • $8 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business (CEAP-SB) to provide support to businesses struggling with bill payments as a result of the outbreak; and
  • An extension of the Ontario Energy Board's winter disconnection ban until July 31, 2020 to ensure no one is disconnected from their natural gas or electricity service during these uncertain times.

In addition, the government recently announced that it will continue the suspension of time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates and, starting on June 1, 2020, customers will be billed based on a new fixed COVID-19 Recovery Rate of 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour.

"While we make progress to contain this deadly virus, we know people will need to stay home when possible and businesses will need ongoing support as we gradually and safely reopen the economy," said Premier Ford. "Providing additional rate relief, flexibility and customer choice will help ensure everyone can recover from this extraordinary crisis and get back to a life that is as normal as possible."

Starting June 1, 2020, the new COVID-19 Recovery Rate comes into effect for electricity customers who pay TOU rates. This fixed rate will apply to TOU customer bills 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing stability and certainty for consumers as the government restarts the economy and supports individuals and families who continue to spend more time at home.

The COVID-19 Recovery Rate will be in place until October 31, 2020, followed by a new customer choice initiative. Starting November 1, 2020, customers will be able to choose a plan that best suits their household and lifestyle with the option of either TOU electricity rates or tiered pricing, which will provide a set rate for electricity up to a certain level of consumption.

"We recognize that businesses and families are living with a great deal of uncertainty, and they need to know what they can expect when they open their electricity bills every month," said Minister Rickford. "The new COVID-19 Recovery Rate will provide stability for Ontario electricity consumers, while we work to re-open our province and restart our economy."

The government will continue to subsidize electricity bills by 31.8 per cent through the Ontario Electricity Rebate. The government is providing approximately $5.6 billion in 2020-21 as part of its existing electricity cost relief programs, to help ensure more affordable electricity bills for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers.

"With the financial hardships faced by so many in our province as a result of COVID-19, those struggling to pay their electricity bills need support," said Minister Walker. "This program, in partnership with the Ontario Energy Board and local distribution companies, will support electricity consumers by keeping rates stable and affordable."

Quick Facts

  • The new COVID-19 Recovery Rate is the Ontario Energy Board (OEB)’s Average Regulated Price Plan (RPP) Rate, which is based on the forecast average electricity supply cost for RPP consumers as of November 1, 2019, as published in the OEB’s most recent RPP Price Report.
  • Time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates vary by time of day and are comprised of three different rate periods of off-peak, mid-peak and on-peak pricing.
  • Tiered electricity rates provide customers with a set rate for electricity up to a certain level of consumption. The rate increases for all electricity use that exceeds this threshold.
  • The OEB sets both tiered and TOU rates as part of the RPP.
  • There are approximately five million residential consumers, farms and some small businesses billed using TOU electricity prices under the RPP.

Additional Resources

  • Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19
  • Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
  • Additional supports for Ontario electricity consumers include the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP).

June 01, 2020

Ontario Extending Infectious Disease Emergency Leave for Workers during COVID-19

TORONTO - The Ontario government is taking steps to help ensure that as the economy gradually and safely reopens workers will have jobs to return to and businesses will be protected from incurring unsustainable termination costs. Today, the government announced that it has enacted a new regulatory amendment that will put non-unionized employees on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave during the COVID-19 outbreak any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced by their employer due to COVID-19. This will ensure businesses aren't forced to terminate employees after their ESA temporary layoff periods have expired.

Terminations triggered when temporary layoffs exceed the permitted length under the Employment Standards Act can result in costly payouts which, for many businesses, could be the difference between survival and closure. Under the new regulatory change to the Employment Standards Act, non-unionized employees who have had their hours reduced or eliminated because of the pandemic will be deemed to be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. Workers will remain employed with legal protections and be eligible for federal emergency income support programs.

"As we take the necessary steps to safely and gradually restart the economy, we need to make sure business owners can reopen their doors and workers have jobs to go back to," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training & Skills Development. "This regulatory change will protect businesses from being forced to permanently lay off their employees due to COVID-19 and suffer a financial loss that could shutter their operations for good."

Many businesses had to close or reduce operations to comply with emergency orders necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to Statistics Canada, 379,000 Ontario workers were temporarily laid off in April 2020, an increase of 2,496 per cent compared with one year earlier.

The regulatory amendment applies retroactively to March 1, 2020 and will expire six weeks after the declared emergency ends. The regulatory amendments do not include employees represented by a trade union.

The government is also supporting people and businesses by providing billions of dollars in deferrals and relief. That includes deferring $1.9 billion in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board premium payments until August 31, 2020, $10 billion in interest and penalty relief, and other deferrals to improve cash flow, protect jobs and help household budgets. In addition, the province is partnering with the federal government to provide commercial rent relief for commercial tenants and landlords through the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program.

Quick Facts

  • The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario estimates that about 2.2 million Ontario employees were directly affected by pandemic-related shutdowns, through either job losses (1.1 million), temporary layoffs or sharply reduced hours (1.1 million) in 2020.
  • Termination and severance obligations create a significant financial burden for businesses. For example, a restaurant with 30 staff could be liable for termination payments as high as $100,000.

Additional Resources

Quotes

“Ontario’s small to medium manufacturers need this change to pre-empt unnecessary and significant business costs that will inevitably lead to numerous bankruptcies.”

Dennis Darby

President and CEO, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

“In addition to the lost livelihoods of business owners and workers, the closures and job losses we would endure without any changes would have a further devastating impact on Ontario’s economy. We appreciate the actions the government has taken today to preserve jobs and keep businesses alive.”

Rocco Rossi

President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce

“We thank Minister McNaughton for recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed employers in an extremely vulnerable position under current employment law. Without this important change, many businesses would have been forced to pay significant termination sums when they are financially strapped due to forced shutdowns, jeopardizing their ability to make it to the other side of COVID-19.”

Julie Kwiecinski

Director of Provincial Affairs for Ontario, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

June 01, 2020

Tourism Operators and the Impacts of COVID-19

Attention Tourism Operators!

Ontario wants to hear from you on the impacts of COVID-19 

If you’re a Tourism Operator in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs want to hear from you about the impacts that COVID-19 has had and is expected to have on your business.

Ontario recognizes that the tourism sector of our economy is among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Tourism Operators are invited to register to present to the Finance Committee.  Virtual committee meetings will begin Thursday June 4th

Interested business owners can register to make a presentation to the committee by visiting https://www.ola.org/en/apply-committees by Monday, June 1 at 12 noon.

Alternatively, written comments can be submitted through the website until 5pm on Monday June 22nd.

We want to hear from you.

May 30, 2020

Ontario Provides Consumers with Greater Stability and Predictability with Their Electricity Bills

TORONTO - Today, Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, issued the following statement on electricity rate relief measures during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Our government is committed to supporting families and business-owners as we plan for the safe and gradual reopening of the province.  

Since March 24, 2020, we have invested just over $175 million to deliver emergency rate relief to residential, farm and small business electricity consumers by suspending time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. This investment was made to protect the people of Ontario from a marked increase in electricity rates as they did their part by staying home to prevent the further spread of the virus.

As Ontarians continue to work and learn from home, we are extending the suspension of time-of-use price to provide consumers with greater stability and predictability with their electricity bills.

To extend this support responsibly, we will introduce a fixed electricity price, known as the COVID-19 Recovery Rate, of 12.8 cents per kWh, which will be automatically applied to all time-of-use customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This fixed electricity price will be in place from June 1 - October 31, 2020. 

The COVID-19 Recovery Rate of 12.8¢/kWh is based on the average cost of electricity, set by the Ontario Energy Board. This fixed rate will continue to suspend time-of-use prices in a fiscally responsible manner. By introducing this new fixed rate, consumers will have greater flexibility to use electricity when they need it without paying on-peak and mid-peak prices.

Thank you to the millions of Ontarians who are helping us stop the spread. More information on the COVID-19 Recovery Rate, and government's plan to build an electricity system that works for the people of this province, will be announced at the Premier's daily briefing on Monday, June 1, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. EST."

Quick Facts

  • The new COVID-19 Recovery Rate is the Ontario Energy Board's (OEB’s) average Regulated Price Plan (RPP) Rate, which is based on the forecast average electricity supply cost for RPP consumers as of November 1, 2019, as published in the OEB’s most recent RPP Price Report.
  • Time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates vary by time of day, comprised of three different rate periods of off-peak, mid-peak and on-peak pricing.
  • The OEB sets both tiered and time-of-use (TOU) rates as part of the RPP.
  • There are approximately five million residential consumers, farms and some small businesses billed using TOU electricity prices under the RPP.

May 30, 2020

Backcountry Camping available at Ontario Parks and on Crown Lands Starting June 1

TORONTO — The Ontario government is gradually reintroducing camping in Ontario Parks and recreational camping on Crown land, starting June 1, 2020, to give people more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, while staying safe and practicing physical distancing.

As of June 1, backcountry camping will be available at Ontario Parks, including access points, paddle and portage routes and hiking trails. Ontario Parks will also be expanding day-use activities to include picnicking and off-leash pet areas.

"We are all eager to get outside this time of year, and backcountry camping will give people a low-risk way to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors while following physical distancing rules," said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. "We're counting on people to be responsible when enjoying our parks and continue to follow all of the public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19."

Following current provincial restrictions, no more than five people will be allowed to occupy a backcountry campsite during their stay, unless they live in the same household.

The closure of all other overnight camping and some day-use activities at provincial parks and conservation reserves has been extended to June 14 and will continue to be reassessed. All buildings and facilities including campgrounds, roofed accommodations, visitor centers, park stores, playgrounds, and beaches remain closed. Some washroom facilities may be available.

In addition, Ontario is reopening recreational camping on Crown land while reminding visitors to continue to adhere to public health advice as the best defense against COVID-19, such as practicing physical distancing, wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge, and frequent hand washing. Camping on Crown land does not include the use of shared facilities and is a low-risk way for people to enjoy the outdoors.

"Even as we begin to reopen camping so that Ontarians can enjoy our beautiful outdoors, people's health and well-being remain our top priority," said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. "We have to work together to ensure we open our province in a responsible, cautious manner. We are starting to contain the virus, but we cannot risk undoing all of the progress that we have made by reopening the province too quickly."  

Ontario Parks will begin collecting fees for day-use and backcountry camping access as of June 1. Please visit Ontario parks and click on the "Fees" tab to find out more. Advanced reservations or registrations will be required at most of the 20 operating provincial parks that are offering backcountry camping.

Ontario Parks has been conducting critical maintenance and other park start-up procedures and ensuring operational and safety protocols are in place so that more recreational activities and facilities can open when it is safe to do so.

Quick Facts

  • Backcountry camping involves hiking or paddling through park lands and setting up camp in remote areas. These campers are typically in small groups, fully equipped with supplies, and do not normally require the use of any facilities, such as washrooms, showers or other amenities.
  • People can also continue to access Crown land for recreational activities such as hiking, fishing and hunting.
  • Ontario Parks manages 340 provincial parks and 295 conservation reserves, covering over 9.8 million hectares of land in the province.
  • Crown land, managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, represents approximately 77 per cent of the province.

Additional Resources

May 30, 2020

Ontario Takes Additional Steps to Protect Seniors in Retirement Homes during COVID-19

TORONTO — Today, the Ontario government made amendments to the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 regulation, enabling the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) to better support seniors living in retirement homes during the COVID-19 outbreak. The regulation change increases the emergency payment the RHRA can pay to eligible retirement home residents from $2,000 to $3,500. In the event of an emergency, such as an outbreak, this funding can be used to support residents to cover costs for transportation, alternative accommodation or temporary care. The regulation change also requires retirement homes to report infectious disease outbreaks to the RHRA during COVID-19 and beyond.  

"These regulatory amendments build on the decisive action our government has taken in recent days to make sure our seniors receive the support and the protection that they deserve," said Premier Doug Ford. "We are making sure seniors have the financial resources they need in the event of an emergency, and are making it easier for the retirement home regulator to work with local public health authorities."

In addition, the government has:

  • Issued an emergency order eliminating barriers to eligible frontline workers receiving pandemic pay. It will allow employers with unionized workforces to provide pandemic pay to eligible employees without the need to negotiate separate terms or conditions with their bargaining agents.
  • Extended an emergency order to provide electricity bill relief for industrial and commercial consumers during COVID-19. The order was first introduced on May 1, 2020 to defer a portion of the Global Adjustment charges from April and May 2020. Through the extended emergency order and a related regulatory amendment, this support is now being extended through to the end of June 2020.
  • Amended an emergency order to allow drive-in movie theatres that were in existence before May 29, 2020  to reopen with restrictions in order to help support communities and local businesses recover from the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The government is also allowing batting cages to open so that people can start to enjoy outdoor seasonal activities at safe physical distances. These changes will be effective on May 31, 2020.

 

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Ontario declared a provincial emergency on March 17, 2020 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This declaration of emergency was most recently extended on May 12, 2020 and is currently in effect until June 2, 2020.
  • The Ontario government extended all emergency orders in force under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until June 9, 2020.
  • Emergency orders related to drive-in cinemas and drive-in religious services now allow the use of washrooms provided health and safety requirements are followed.

Additional Resources

May 30, 2020

Ontario Opens Up COVID-19 Testing Across the Province

TORONTO — As the province carefully and gradually reopens the economy, the Ontario government is implementing the next phase of its COVID-19 testing strategy to detect and quickly stop the spread of the virus. Testing will now be available to more people in more locations across the province.

Today, Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, released the next phase of the province's COVID-19 testing plan, Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing, which includes three branches of testing:

  1. Assessment Centre Testing: expanding who gets tested to now include asymptomatic individuals concerned about exposure and continued routine symptomatic testing at assessment centres.
  2. Targeted Campaigns: detecting and containing cases by expanding asymptomatic surveillance for vulnerable populations, including in long-term care homes and other shared living spaces like shelters and group homes, as well as targeted testing of workplaces in priority sectors which work with priority populations and where it may be difficult to physically distance.
  3. Outbreak Management: testing to ensure rapid and agile response capacity for outbreak management, including in specific neighbourhoods and regions or at hospitals, institutions and workplaces.

"Ontario now has the most open and robust testing criteria in the entire country. In fact, anyone who feels they need a test will be able to get a test," said Premier Ford. "We can't manage what we can't measure, and our newly expanded testing strategy is our best defence against stopping the spread of COVID-19 as we gradually and safely reopen the province. More proactive testing will give employers and their employees confidence as they return to work and will fortify our alert system for any potential surge in new cases."

Together, these branches of testing will support Ontario regions' extensive efforts to reduce the rate of transmission, also known as instantaneous reproduction number, or Rt.

To help enable increased access to routine symptomatic testing, people will no longer need a referral to go to any of the more than 130 assessment centres across Ontario. Information about the assessment centres is now easily accessible on Ontario's dedicated COVID-19 website.

"The significant expansion of testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals will go hand in hand with public health units' ongoing contact tracing and case management efforts to stop the spread of the virus and keep our families and our communities safe," said Minister Elliott. "I just want to caution people, although your test may be negative, you must continue to practise physical distancing, wear a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge, and wash your hands regularly. These simple actions will help keep everyone safe and healthy."

Ontario will also expand proactive surveillance testing to detect outbreaks and more actively monitor any spread among our most vulnerable populations in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, correctional facilities and other shared living spaces. This will include testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and frontline staff in long-term care and retirement homes, as well as those working with priority populations, including first responders, essential workers and other workplaces as the economy gradually reopens.

Moving forward, the province expects that private-sector workplace testing will leverage private and public resources as the government works with private-sector employers to develop the appropriate models for each sector and workplace. Further proactive surveillance testing will also be conducted in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

In response to a declaration of an outbreak in a specific neighbourhood, region, institution or workplace, the province is also developing agile testing resources, such as mobile testing teams, that can be rapidly deployed to communities across Ontario to enhance existing outbreak management.

Ontario will also soon release a renewed strategy to support public health units with case management and contact tracing, including launching a new exposure notification app that will alert Ontarians when they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and would recommend appropriate actions, such as monitoring for symptoms, self-isolation and/or appropriate next steps on getting tested.

Quick Facts

  • On May 14, 2020, the province expanded its testing guidance to include a broader range of symptoms for all populations and to help guide decision-making on testing of priority population groups.
  • To get tested, people should visit Ontario's website to find their local assessment centre and whether they need to call ahead to make an appointment.
  • No Ontarian will be declined a test at an assessment centre (either through appointment or walk-in, per the processes of each individual assessment centre), especially those who are symptomatic or who are concerned they have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Ontario continues to lead large Canadian provinces in daily testing volumes, and to date, has completed 680,687 tests, with 69,318 tests completed since May 24, 2020.
  • Ontario has a provincewide network of more than 20 laboratory sites working in coordination to further increase capacity and test turn-around times for COVID-19 testing.

Additional Resources

May 29, 2020

Support for Small Business Tenants and Landlords Now Available

TORONTO — All commercial landlords in Ontario can now apply for rental assistance to help their small business tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will keep more small businesses in operation and more people employed as the province gradually and safely restarts the economy.

The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government, has launched the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. The province is committing $241 million to the program, which will provide more than $900 million in support for small businesses across Ontario during this difficult time.  To find out how much rent support you may be eligible for, visit Ontario.ca/rentassistance.

"We know that some of the necessary measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have created significant financial hardships for small businesses," said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. "That's why we've partnered with the federal government to deliver urgent rent assistance and help both small businesses and commercial landlords make ends meet. I encourage all commercial landlords to take advantage of this benefit as soon as possible in order to provide some certainty for our small businesses."

The CECRA for small businesses, administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), provides forgivable loans to eligible commercial landlords to help cover 50 per cent of commercial rent for tenants for the months of April, May and June 2020. The tenant will be responsible for covering up to 25 per cent of rent, so that up to 75 per cent of the rent is covered.

To receive the forgivable loan, eligible commercial landlords will be required to enter into a rent reduction agreement with their impacted small business tenants for April to June 2020, which includes committing to a moratorium on evictions for three months.

"As Ontario's economy gradually reopens, we will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure people and businesses across the province get the support they desperately need. We want to do everything we can to ensure our small businesses are able and ready to reopen their doors when the time is right," said Phillips.

To learn more and apply for the CECRA for small businesses, visit the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) application portal

 

Quick Facts

  • The CECRA for small businesses is administered by the CMHC and will be available until August 31, 2020. Support will be retroactive to April 1, covering April, May and June 2020.
  • The CECRA for small businesses has been developed to share the cost of rent between small business tenants, landlords and the governments of Ontario and Canada. Small business landlords would be asked to forgive at least 25 per cent of the tenant's total rent, tenants would be asked to pay up to 25 per cent of rent and the provincial and federal government would share the cost of the remaining 50 per cent.
  • Partnering with the federal government to deliver rent assistance builds on the government’s actions to support small businesses during COVID-19. As part of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the first phase of the government’s response, the province has implemented $10 billion in cash flow supports to help support jobs and businesses through tax and other deferrals.

Additional Resources

May 29, 2020

Ontario Extending Emergency Orders During COVID-19 Outbreak

TORONTO — The Ontario government continues to protect the health and safety of the public during the COVID-19 outbreak by extending all emergency orders in force under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Current emergency orders include the closure of outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment, public swimming pools and outdoor water facilities, as well as bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery. Additionally, there continues to be restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people, and staff redeployment rules remain in place for long-term care homes and congregate settings like retirement homes and women's shelters.

"We are extending these emergency orders to protect the health and safety of all individuals and families as we begin to gradually and safely reopen our province," said Premier Doug Ford. "To build on the progress we have made to contain COVID-19, people should continue to follow these simple public health guidelines, practise physical distancing, wear a mask when it is a challenge to physical distance, and wash their hands regularly. If you think you have COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus, go to an assessment centre and get tested. Please stay safe."

The following emergency orders have been extended until June 9, 2020:

The following orders have also been extended:

 

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Ontario declared a provincial emergency on March 17, 2020 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This declaration of emergency was most recently extended on May 12, 2020 and is currently in effect until June 2, 2020.

Additional Resources

May 27, 2020

Volunteers and Small Businesses Step Up to Help Those in Need

TORONTO — Ontario's volunteers and small businesses are rising to the challenge and helping seniors and other vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Thousands of people are generously giving their time and resources to make and deliver food, run errands, and check in on those who are self-isolating.

Today's update was provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.

"Over the past few weeks, I've been moved by hundreds of stories of people reaching out in selfless acts of kindness to help those most in need," said Premier Ford. "It's that Ontario spirit that is giving us the strength to pull through these tough times. If you have some spare time, I encourage you to sign up and volunteer because we are all in this together."

On April 9, the government announced it was investing $100,000 in its partnership with SPARK Ontario to support the province's first bilingual volunteer hub connecting volunteers with community organizations that support vulnerable Ontarians. To date, the response has been tremendous:

  • Over 54,000 users have visited the SPARK Ontario website to learn how they can volunteer;
  • Over 3,500 civic-minded Ontarians have signed up on the site to volunteer, and over 3,100 have contacted community organizations regarding a volunteer opportunity; and
  • 141 community organizations have registered for volunteer matching and more than 100 COVID-19-related volunteer opportunities have been posted online.

Today, volunteers are supporting seniors, people with disabilities and others in need as they stay home during the COVID-19 outbreak with food delivery, shopping for supplies, running errands, providing remote mental health and crisis support, and tutoring kids.Volunteers are also mentoring seniors on technology to ensure they are connected online, as well as providing mental health support to both seniors and people with disabilities by writing letters and poems.

The government has partnered with the Older Adults Centres Association of Ontario to help implement the Seniors Centres Without Walls model of programming, where isolated seniors can participate in group programs over the phone. As of April 30, 2020, 35 programs have begun running in their communities.

"Although it is critical for our most vulnerable citizens to self-isolate in order to stay healthy and safe, the lack of social interaction can be extremely difficult," said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. "SPARK Ontario's volunteer hub provides a helping hand and reassurance that they are not alone. I congratulate the thousands of Ontarians who have stepped up to volunteer at this challenging time."

"As I connect and host virtual roundtables with small businesses across the province, I'm also hearing about the tremendous generosity of our small businesses and the many ways they are giving back to their communities," said Associate Minister Sarkaria. "In so many remarkable ways, these local heroes are demonstrating the Ontario spirit. As part of the Small Businesses, Big Hearts initiative, we want to highlight these acts of kindness. Please reach out to me to share the positive news!"

Through the new Ontario Community Support Program, the province is working with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and their large volunteer base to increase Meals on Wheels food deliveries and deliver essential supplies to isolated, low-income seniors and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. More than 500 meal referrals and nearly 2,000 essential supply referrals have been made since the program launched in mid-April.

Quick Facts

  • The Ontario Government invested $11 million to implement the Ontario Community Support Program. This is in addition to the $20 million over two years the province has invested to protect seniors in retirement homes through increased infection control and active screening procedures.
  • The province has also doubled Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments for low income seniors. Individuals will receive up to $166 per month and couples will receive up to $332 per month. These doubled payments will continue for six months and provide an additional $75 million to 194,000 vulnerable seniors who may need more help to cover essential expenses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • To identify a Meals on Wheels provider in your local community and request service, visit www.ontariocommunitysupport.ca.
  • Seniors, people with disabilities, and others in need of assistance can connect to essential services in their community by visiting www.211ontario.ca or by dialing 211 or 1-877-330-3212 (toll free). TTY service is also available by dialing 1-888-340-1001.
  • The new COVID-19: Tackling the Barriers website enables businesses to submit details of any potential regulatory roadblocks as we navigate these uncharted economic conditions.
  • To take part in the Small Businesses, Big Hearts initiative and share a story, please reach out to the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction at bighearts@ontario.ca.
  • For information and resources for Ontario businesses, visit ontario.ca/supportforbusiness.

May 25, 2020