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 April 8, 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

Not sure which type of benefit to apply for or what is available for your particular situation? Check out this useful guide compiled and published freely by Dr. Jennifer Robson, Associate Professor of Political Management at Carleton University.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The CERB 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 April 6 and will provide $2,000 for a 4-week period ($500 per week) which can be renewed for further 4-week periods. To apply for the CERB, access it through your CRA MyAccount secure portal or sign in through your My Service Canada account.

Information on how to apply

General info on eligibility and Q&A

Access CRA’s My Account for Individuals

*Note: 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.

Employment Insurance

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.

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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.

Kids Help Phone: Children and teens of any age can contact the Kids Help Phone free of charge to connect immediately with a trained crisis responder. No adult supervision or permission is required and the service is completely confidential. Kids can feel the burden of the COVID-19 crisis acutely and may not know where to turn for support. The Kids Help Phone is available 24/7.

Visit kidshelpphone.ca

Call a counsellor:1-800-668-6868

Text CONNECT to 686868

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Health and Safety at Work

The Workers' Health & Safety Centre has produced a few documents to help workers understand what are the reasonable precautions they should expect their employer to undertake. Learn about hygiene and cleaning, PPE, and physical distancing best practices.

Read "Safeguards for Workers"

Read "Your Workplace COVID-19 Pandemic Plan: A Checklist"

PPE for Nurses: ONA has been an active advocate for appropriate and consistent access to personal protective equipment for nurses. On March 30, ONA released a joint statement with the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour, and the Training and Skills Development. The statement identifies six agreements between the parties for front-line healthcare workers who are dealing with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.

Read the Joint Statement

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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.

Help with cost of schooling from home: The Government of Ontario announced a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including children enrolled in private schools to help families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures. Please note that further details on the distribution of this money is not yet available.

Read Ontario Government media release

GAINS Top-up: On March 25, the Ontario government announced a temporary top-up to payments made through the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS). Beginning in April 2020, monthly GAINS payment amounts will be doubled for a period of six months. This action will provide additional and immediate financial support to low-income Ontario seniors who may need more help to cover essential expenses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

More information about GAINS

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:

The Province of Ontario has temporarily suspended Time-of-Use rates so that they are now fixed at the lowest rate (known as the off-peak price) 24 hours a day for 45 days beginning on March 25, 2020. The Province has also expanded access to existing cost relief programs and eligibility for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).

Read Ontario Government media release

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

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. These measures are effective March 30 2020. You do not have to do anything, as all pre-authorized debits will be stopped and other forms of payment will not be required.

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.

Ontario portion of student loans: the Province is providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief for students.

Please note that for provincially-funded student loans from provinces other than Ontario you will need to check with the respective government to find out if similar measures are in place.

More information: Visit the National Student Loans Service Centre or Ontario Student Assistance Program webpages.

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

Food Access: View this helpful list of available food banks and other food resources, compiled by Toronto Neighbourhood office

List of food banks

General Toronto Resources: The office of Toronto City Councillor Mike Layton has compiled an extensive document of neighbourhood and city-wide resources for individuals. This is an excellent resource if you are looking for mutual aid networks (including how to establish your own), emergency food and supplies, local non-profit services, or are looking for ways to volunteer.

View Cllr. Layton's resource document

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