The Ontario government is delivering much-needed support to Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens, including seniors and persons with disabilities, during the outbreak of COVID-19. The province is investing $11 million to help deliver meals, medicines and other essentials to those in need and doubling the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments.
The province is working with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) to launch a new Ontario Community Support Program to expand existing Meals on Wheels services to reach low-income seniors and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions across Ontario. The program will also develop the capacity of community organizations and others to help deliver medication and other essentials.
This week the province will also be issuing the first doubled Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments. 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.
The province is investing $40 million in the Residential Relief Fund. The funding will assist developmental services, child welfare, victims shelters, and organizations delivering social services to vulnerable First Nations individuals and families with COVID-related costs, such as the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and enhanced staffing. In addition, the government is providing $148 million to municipal partners that administer social services with funding to support the province’s most vulnerable as part of the province’s $200 million in social services relief funding in response to COVID-19.
Learn what financial support is available in addition to Employment Insurance and other relief from the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan during COVID-19.
In this section:
- Financial help for basic needs
- Changes to renting
- Help for electricity bills
- Doubled GAINS payments for seniors
Financial help for basic needs
If you are not currently getting social assistance
If you need help paying for food and housing and are not already on Ontario Works or ODSP, you can apply for COVID-19 emergency assistance.
Current Ontario Works and ODSP recipients
The government has made additional funding available to help you pay for things like cleaning supplies, transportation and clothing.
You will not have to visit your local office to provide written documentation during this time. Offices will have reduced hours, and you should apply online or call your local office if you need more assistance.
Shelters and food banks, charities and non-profits
Ontario-funded emergency shelters for women and children fleeing violence are available to offer support during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government is also giving funding directly to Consolidated Municipal Service Managers, District Social Services Administration Boards and Indigenous Program Administrators to support local needs.
Changes to renting
The government has made temporary changes to residential rental processes.
Help for electricity bills
From March 24 to May 8, 2020, residential, farm and small business time-of-use customers will pay the lowest rate — also known as the off-peak price — 24 hours a day. That means you will pay 10.1 ¢/kWh no matter what time of day you use electricity. This rate will be automatically applied to your bill.
Through the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), low-income customers can get direct support to pay bills and ensure electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you are behind on your bill and may have your service disconnected, you could qualify for:
- $500 for electricity bills ($600 if your home is heated electrically)
- $500 for natural gas bills
Doubled GAINS payments for seniors
If you are a senior receiving monthly Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments, we will be doubling your payment, making it up to $166 per month for individuals and up to $332 per month for couples. If you are a GAINSrecipient, you will receive this extra support automatically for six months, with the first payment on April 24, 2020.
Supports for children and youth
Children’s aid societies continue to operate and provide services to children, youth and families. Societies are being encouraged to use technology where possible and appropriate, while also observing local public health recommendations. Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, youth in care who turn 18 and former youth in care who turn 21 will not age out of the supports and services they are currently receiving through children’s aid societies.
Children with special needs
Some service providers already offer services through telephone or video applications where appropriate and are considering other remote and virtual service delivery models. You can contact your service provider for updated information and to discuss what services may be available.
Youth justice facilities
Some services at provincially-operated youth justice facilities and probation offices are cancelled or are being provided through technology.
Emergency shelters and other support services
Women and children’s shelters
Ontario funded emergency shelters for women and children fleeing violence are available to offer support during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police.
Human trafficking services and supports
Services for victims and survivors of human trafficking may be affected during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please contact your nearest service provider for updated information.
Developmental services agencies continue to support people with developmental disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak, but some offices or programs may be closed or impacted, and visits to residential programs may be restricted to help protect residents and staff. Please contact your service provider for updated information.
Child and spousal support payments
The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) continues to help families get the support they are entitled to by collecting, distributing and enforcing child and spousal support payments during the COVID-19 outbreak. FRO’s in-person service counter is closed, but service is available by phone and online. Clients may experience longer than normal wait times for service requests because FRO is operating with fewer staff to help protect the health and safety of staff and respect physical distancing.
Settlement services for newcomers
Ontario funded settlement agencies are not currently providing in-person settlement services. However, many settlement agencies are offering services remotely, online and by phone to help newcomers and refugees find the services they need to integrate into Ontario. Settlement information and resources are also available in multiple languages through Settlement.org.
Extensions on validations and deadlines
In this section:
- Driver’s licenses, vehicle and carrier products
- Health cards
- OSAP payments
- Ontario Autism Program registration
Driver’s licenses, vehicle and carrier products
Learn about expiry-date extensions for driver’s licenses, vehicle and carrier products and services due to COVID-19.
You do not need to renew your health card until further notice. Recently expired health cards will be accepted.
From March 30, 2020 to September 30, 2020:
- you do not need to make any loan payments
- interest will not be added to your student loans
If your OSAP debt is in collections, contact the Ministry of Finance at 1-877-535-0554or the private collection agency assigned to your account to discuss your options.
Ontario Autism Program registration
The government has extended the deadline to submit your Ontario Autism Program registration form and supporting documents to be eligible for interim one-time funding. Once we’ve set a new deadline we’ll announce it on the Autism in Ontario page.
Mental health and addictions supports
If you’re feeling anxious, experiencing other mental health or addiction challenges or you can’t access your regular in-person counselling support, there are services you can access online or by phone:
- ConnexOntario: Adults and frontline workers who are dealing with the realities of COVID-19 can call ConnexOntario at 1-866-531-2600 for mental health, addictions and problem gambling support.
- 211 Ontario: For information and referrals for community, government, social and health services, including mental health resources across Ontario, call 211 or 1-877-330-3213. Live web chat is also available.
- BounceBack: A free, evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program that offers guided mental health self-help supports for adults and youth 15+ using workbooks, online videos and phone coaching. Call 1-866-345-0224.
- Kids Help Phone: Children and youth 18 and younger who need to talk to someone about their mental health can call 1-800-668-6868, for 24/7 phone and text support.
- Good2Talk: A phone and texting service that offers confidential support to post-secondary students. Call 1-866-925-5454.
- Hope for Wellness Helpline: Indigenous peoples can call 1-855-242-3310 for immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention across Canada (available in some Indigenous languages). Live web chat is also available.
- Talk 4 Healing: Indigenous women can get help, support and resources seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with services in 14 languages by calling or texting 1-855-554-4325. Live web chat is also available.
If you are currently receiving mental health and addictions services and supports, please contact your current service provider, including community-based mental health and addictions agencies. Many of theses providers are modifying their services to move towards virtual care, meeting clients by phone or secure video-conferencing.