Help for Individuals during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Compiled by Labour Community Services and the Toronto & York Region Labour Council

Last updated March 25, 2020

Since COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic, our society has changed rapidly as we respond to the health and economic crisis. Many levels of government have declared states of emergency, and drastic changes will impact every household.

Most information services are being overwhelmed with the volume of inquiries and applications – so please be patient with service workers who are working hard to focus on those most in need. 

We hope this document can be a resource for you to find the help you need to sustain yourself and your family in good health and shelter. Most importantly, make sure you are safe at work. If you have any doubt about your personal safety, speak to your union.

On this page:

Employment Insurance and other Work Benefits

Employment Insurance sickness benefits have always been available to people in quarantine as well as to those who are actually sick. With a massive increase in applications, there will be unavoidable delays in processing benefits. There are two main changes for workers who are quarantined or sick due to COVID-19:

  1. Applicants will not have to get a doctor’s note in order to apply for sick benefits.
  2. The normal 1-week EI waiting period is waived, so benefits start right away after someone stops working. There is a special toll-free number to call to ask for this:

Toll-free: 1-833-381-2725

Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-529-3742

Priority will go to processing claims from workers who are quarantined, and claims can be backdated if someone could not apply right away because of being quarantined.

Apply online

Who is eligible for EI?

In order to be eligible for EI you need to have been paying into it. You also must have worked a certain number of hours in the previous year, depending on where you live. In Toronto, you are required to have 600 hours for EI sickness benefits and 700 hours for regular benefits. Note: if you have employer-paid sick benefits, you are required to use these first.

How to Apply for EI

We are in the process of developing “how-to” resources for EI applications. In the meantime, Settlement.org has put out a useful guide.

Also see this video produced by Public Legal Information, a Toronto-area legal clinic, summarizing the EI sick benefits, recent changes, and ways to apply:

Get assistance in your application through the City of Toronto’s Employment and Social Services.

Call 3-1-1 and ask for assistance. Help is available in more than 180 languages.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is a new measure introduced by the Federal government to cover workers who are sick, quarantined or laid off and who are not eligible for EI. This benefit will be available starting in April and will provide $2,000 per month for up to four months. To apply for the Benefit, Canadians will be able to access it through their CRA MyAccount secure portal beginning in early April.

More information on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Access CRA’s My Account for Individuals

*Note 1: More application details will be available in April as the government puts this new policy into operation.

*Note 2: The CERB was originally announced as two separate benefits, the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit. They have been combined into one benefit.

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Health and Medical Resources

COVID-19 Specific: Stay informed and follow the advice of our public health experts. Access the most up-to-date information through the following links: 

Toronto.ca/covid-19

York.ca/covid19

Ontario.ca/coronavirus

Canada.ca/coronavirus

Find a COVID-19 Assessment Centre: an interactive map of all assessment centres that indicates location, time, and advance appointment requirements.

Telehealth Ontario: Get fast, free medical advice through Telehealth Ontario on all subjects relating to health. Please note that wait times are long.

Toll-free: 1-866-797-0000
Toll-free TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Mental Health Supports: As social (physical) distancing may continue for a long time, CAMH has posted some strategies on psychological coping with COVID-19.

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Access Other Government-Supported Financial Assistance

Income Tax relief: The federal government has extended its tax filing deadline to June 1 and the tax payment deadline to September 1 in an effort to keep funds in the economy.

More information from CRA

A GST credit of up to $400 for singles and $600 for couples who are in low- to moderate-income brackets will be automatically available upon tax filing, but note that you will need to have filed your 2019 taxes to qualify despite the extended deadline.

Canada Child Benefit: Families that receive the Canada Child Benefit will receive a top-up of $300 more per child. This benefit will be automatically added to your May payment if you are already in receipt of CCB.

For more information on the Canada Child Benefit such as how to apply and eligibility requirements, go to Canada child benefit or call 1-800-387-1193.

Relief on Property Tax and other City of Toronto bills: A 60-day grace period is in effect for City of Toronto property tax, water and solid waste utility bill payments for all residents and businesses, for bills dated as of March 16. Late payment penalties for residential and business properties will be waived for 60 days, starting the same day.

The City said property tax accounts will be adjusted as necessary to reflect these relief measures.

More information via City of Toronto (see “extended grace periods")

Property Tax and Utility Relief for other GTA Municipalities: Please refer to your specific municipality to see what resources have been put in place.

Vaughan

Newmarket

Aurora

Markham

Whitchurch-Stouffville

Richmond Hill

Hydro Bill relief:

Toronto Hydro has programs in place to assist customers facing financial hardship. They will assist customers on a case-by-case basis with their bill payments.

More information from Toronto Hydro

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is extending the wintertime ban on electricity disconnections for non-payment for all residential customers to July 31, 2020. Low-volume, small business customers will now also be protected by the ban. In addition, the OEB is calling on distributors to be more flexible on arrears payment arrangements.

More information from OEB

A note regarding Time-Of-Use rates: The OEB sets time-of-use rates and will require direction from the Province to make adjustments. The Labour Council joins other advocates in calling for the government to make the necessary changes during these extraordinary circumstances.

Licences and renewals: As part of the province's enhanced measures, the Provincial government is extending the validity period of driving products, services and health cards. These new regulations include extensions for driver licences, licence plate validation, Ontario Photo Cards, and Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates, among others. Expiring and expired health cards will continue to provide access to health services.

Media release from Ontario Government

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Housing Help

Evictions: The Province of Ontario has declared a halt to new evictions and to enforcement of standing eviction orders.

More information via Steps to Justice

Chief Justice Court Order Suspending Evictions

Tenant Issues: The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA) is an excellent source of help and advice on all tenant issues. Check the website for answers to your questions before calling. While FMTA has closed their office, you can still call the hotline and leave a message to get a call-back.

torontotenants.org

416-921-9494

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Debt Assistance

Mortgage Deferral: All six major banks have committed to working with individuals on a case-by-case basis to make deferred mortgage payments possible, for a single month or for up to six months.

For more information, contact your mortgage broker directly.

Student Loans: The Government of Canada has announced its plan to pause the repayment of Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans until September 30, 2020, with no accrual of interest. Pending parliamentary approval, these measures will become effective March 30 2020. This will include pre-authorized debits.

Students who are currently studying can continue to apply for Canada Student Loans. There will be no change to the application process. If a borrower wishes to apply for student financial assistance during the pause, they should apply through their Province or Territory of residence.

Please note that the above applies to the federal portion of student loans only. At present, there is no change to the Ontario portion of your student loan.

More information: The Government will make more details available shortly pending parliamentary approval.

Speak to a Credit Counsellor: Credit counsellors are financial crisis first responders. They are the first to know what creditors are doing to help their clients who can't make payments due to COVID-19 and what resources the government is making available to those who need it most. Therefore, they can provide you with the most up-to-date information regarding creditors and government programs.

Credit Canada offers free over-the-phone counselling 1-800-267-2272 

Contact your bank and creditors: If you feel you will be unable to stay current with your payments due to COVID-19, contact your bank and creditors immediately and let them know. Many creditors and banks are setting up measures to make sure anyone impacted by this disease doesn’t fall through the cracks.

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Community Resources

211 ONTARIO: A toll-free information line that can direct callers to resources for topics including abuse, homelessness and housing, emergency and crisis, mental health and addictions, family services, food, Indigenous services, disabilities, seniors, and more. Assistance is available in over 100 languages.

Dial 2-1-1 or visit 211ontario.ca

Legal Assistance: Community Legal Education Ontario is working to give practical answers to the important questions that people are asking about the law relating to the COVID-19 situation. They are also sharing updates about changes to government programs and court services. CLEO has a lot of information on many current issues including the following and more

stepstojustice.ca/covid-19

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