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COVID-19: CRITICAL FAQs

With the COVID-19 pandemic, questions around income and housing supports and other critical issues are at the forefront of all of our minds. Our Critical FAQs page was created to help you navigate this new normal. Organized by category, it answers critical questions and links to the latest resources. New information is coming out daily and it's hard to stay up to date. Both the federal and provincial governments are rolling out programs quickly. We’ll update this page as new information comes available.

Please send feedback or suggestions to info@p4p.ca              Last updated: August 4th, 2020.

Supports for People With Disabilities and Their Families

There are a few ways in which the ODSP and Ontario Works (OW) have been affected.

ODSP  and OW Discretionary Payments - information updated May 13th:
Existing ODSP and Ontario Works recipients may be entitled to receive a one-time discretionary payment to help offset costs associated with the COVID-19 virus. The funds are available to offset the costs of purchasing cleaning supplies, food, shelter or costs from self-isolation or quarantine.

Ontario Works and ODSP recipients can access these emergency benefits by calling their caseworker. Emergency benefits for COVID-19 related expenses are the same for both programs: up to $100 for single individuals and up to $200 for families. 

Individuals who received the emergency benefit in March and April and who continue to meet eligibility criteria will automatically receive the benefit in May, June and July.

For new requests, Ontario Works recipients can access emergency benefits by contacting their local officeODSP recipients can access emergency benefits by calling 1‑888‑444‑2412 or emailing ODSP.EmergencyBenefit@ontario.ca with their member ID and details of their additional costs.

More information is available on the MCCSS Social Assistance website.

ODSP, OW and CERB:
Individuals on social assistance who were forced to leave their jobs due to COVID-19 are eligible to keep a portion of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit support payment.

If you are eligible for the benefit, you'll be allowed to keep $1,100 of the CERB payout. This is on top of any regular monthly provincial benefits of up to $773 for those on OW and up to $1,169 for those on ODSP.

More information is available on the MCCSS Social Assistance website.

Changes to ODSP funding rules:
The Ontario Government has temporarily relaxed some of the rules around ODSP funding due to COVID-19 and the need to social distance. These include:
  • Temporary deferral of visual verification of original documents (email copies will be accepted instead, but original documents may be asked for in the future.)
  • If a person receiving benefits is employed, they normally would have to provide pay slips to the ODSP office by the 7th of the month or they could face suspension of benefits. For now, the ODSP will not suspend benefits if the information is not submitted.
  • Eligibility reviews or audits for existing clients have been suspended.
  • ODSP staff are temporally allowed to approve, without Health Professionals endorsements, things like the Special Diet Allowance, Medical Transportation Allowance, Medical Supplies and Mandatory Special Necessity benefits.

MCCSS is making discretionary benefits more accessible for those receiving social assistance who need increased support for extraordinary needs, while ensuring no disruption to current assistance. Contact your caseworker for additional information.

The Ontario government has announced temporary changes to the Passport program in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The government is temporarily expanding the list of eligible expenses to support participants while community-based activities and settings are closed. They are also giving 25 percent of funding to participants in advance and waiving the deadline to file claims.

Eligible expenses now include:

  • Sensory items: To support recipients who rely on sensory items to alleviate anxiety/stress and/or support any clinical or behavioural plans.
  • Technology: To support recipients with the means and ability to stay safe, connected, and occupied at home, including in virtual and online learning and skill development activities. This also includes subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.
  • Activities and items that would otherwise be accessed through day-programs: This includes supplies for home-based hobbies and fitness activities.
  • Personal Protective Equipment and Supplies: To enable recipients and their support workers to be supported more safely at home or as required.
  • Essential Service Delivery Fees: For those unable to leave their homes for essential services such as food and medications.
  • Behavioural Support Plans and Related Interventions: To support the development or delivery of support strategies that help reduce challenging behaviours or potential crisis situations at home.

How and when will the 25% advance be administered?

All active program recipients that self-administer their funding will receive an advance payment equal to one quarter of their annual, self-administered funding amount. Funds to those who are eligible will start being distributed the week of May 18th.

Advance payments will be issued automatically to those program recipients who have submitted a 2019/20 claim as of March 31st, 2020. This advance payment will be issued automatically by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) for those who are registered for automatic deposit, or by cheque mailed by Canada Post.

For the official announcement and more information, please visit the Passport program website. Please note that these changes are temporary. You should save all receipts, invoices and supporting documentation with proof of payment for these expenses.

If you have further questions, we recommend getting in touch with your local Passport Agency.

Each Developmental Services Ontario office has an update on the COVID-19 situation. These updates are available on the DSO Regional websites. Once you've found your area office, visit their page for their COVID-19 update.

Although many DSO offices are closed and unable to offer in-person support, they understand the need to remain connected with the people they serve. Most are offering alternate ways of communication.

Both the provincial and federal governments are providing additional, one-time child support at this time:

Provincial:
This one-time payment was created to offset some of the extra costs parents and caregivers incur buying materials for their children while schools and daycares are closed. Eligible parents will receive a one-time payment of:
- $200 for each child aged 0-12
- $250 for each child or youth aged 0-21 with special needs
Learn more on the Provincial Government "Support for Families" website.

Federal:
Additionally, parents will receive an extra one-time payment of $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). This benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May.
Learn more and apply on the Canada Child Benefit website.

The Ontario government is temporarily expanding the list of eligible expenses under the Special Services at Home program in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. They are also giving recipients 25% of the annual funding upfront in order for people to take advantage of these changes quickly.

New eligible expenses include:

  • Sensory items: To support recipients who rely on sensory items to alleviate anxiety/stress and/or support any clinical or behavioural plans.
  • Technology: To support recipients with the means and ability to stay safe, connected, and occupied at home, including in virtual and online learning and skill development activities. Funds can also be used to pay for subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus.
  • Activities and items that would otherwise be accessed through day-programs: This includes supplies for home-based hobbies and fitness activities.
  • Personal Protective Equipment and Supplies: To enable recipients and their support workers to be supported more safely at home or as required.
  • Essential Service Delivery Fees: For those unable to leave their homes for essential services such as food and medications.
  • Behavioural Support Plans and Related Interventions: To support the development or delivery of support strategies that help reduce challenging behaviours or potential crisis situations at home.

How and when will the 25% advance be administered?

Active program recipients that self-administer their funding will receive an advance payment equal to one quarter of their annual, self-administered funding amount. Funds to those who are eligible will start being distributed the week of May 18th.

Advance payments will be issued automatically to those program recipients who have submitted a 2019/20 claim as of March 31st, 2020. This advance payment will be issued automatically by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) for those who are registered for automatic deposit, or by cheque mailed by Canada Post.

Additionally, SSAH Renewal Packages are currently being mailed to all families that were enrolled in the program last fiscal year (i.e. April 1, 2019 through to March 31, 2020)*.  It is expected that all 2020/21 Renewal Packages will be received by all families who continue to remain eligible for SSAH funding by early June 2020.

*Please note that families with children who turned 18 years old prior to March 31, 2019 will not receive a 2020/21 Renewal Package.

For the official announcement and more information, please visit the Special Services at Home website. Please note that this is a temporary change. You should save all receipts, invoices and supporting documentation with proof of payment for these expenses.

If you have further questions, we recommend getting in touch with your local regional office.

The Ontario Autism Program (OAP) has extended the amount of time available to spend childhood budget funding and submit expense forms by up to six months, if necessary. You now have up to 18 months to spend your childhood budget and submit your expense form.

Additionally, the March 31, 2020 deadline to submit the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) registration form and documents has been extended. A new deadline has not yet been established. Please check back here or with the OAP website for updates.

Effective immediately, the government is providing social services relief funding to help protect the health and safety of the province’s most vulnerable people.

For people who are not currently receiving social assistance, emergency assistance is available for those facing a crisis or emergency situation who have no access to other supports, including those who are waiting for new COVID-19 support from the federal government to become available. Individuals may apply for emergency assistance by contacting their local Ontario Works office or through the new online emergency assistance application form at www.ontario.ca/emergencyassistance

On June 8th, the government announced funding for two new accessibility programs. These programs target Canadians with disabilities who are underemployed or out of the job market.

The first is the National Workplace Accessibility Stream of the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities. This new stream will provide additional funding to help Canadians with disabilities and their employers to improve workplace accessibility and access to jobs in response to COVID-19. Some of the activities supported by this fund will include:

  • Setting up accessible and effective work-from-home measures
  • Connecting people with disabilities and employers
  • Training for in-demand jobs
  • Wage subsidies

The second initiative is the The Accessible Technology Program. Part of the Government of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan, this is a multi-year strategy to create well-paying jobs for middle class Canadians by funding specific research and projects that make technology more accessible. The technologies established through these projects will help Canadians with disabilities participate more fully in the digital economy, improving quality of life and opportunities for success.

For the full announcement, please visit the official website.

On July 21st, the Canadian government announced a one-time, tax-free, non-reportable payment of $600 for people with disabilities and their families for costs incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There's no need to submit an application — if you qualify, you'll automatically receive a payout. 

For the full announcement, please visit the official government website.

Income Support

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was created to provide temporary income support to Canadians in need. The CERB provides $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. 

At this time, the Ontario government is still considering how CERB may impact ODSP eligibility. Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister for employment, workforce development and disability inclusion is advising provinces not to clawback CERB from people receiving social assistance. On April 2, the B.C. government exempted EI and CERB from social assistance clawbacks. 

The Ontario government has announced that for people who are working, ODSP will not suspend benefits if pay slips aren't submitted monthly. It may be advisable to not report CERB payments until this issue has been clarified or contact your ODSP office for guidance.

On April 15th, Justin Trudeau announced expanded eligibility criteria for CERB. Seasonal workers, people who no longer have employment insurance, and people who make less than $1,000 a month due to reduced work hours are now eligible. In addition to this, Trudeau announced a wage boost for essential workers who make less than $2,500 a month. This includes those working in long-term care facilities for the elderly.

For information, including eligibility and how to apply, visit the CERB website.

Employment Insurance (EI) provides regular benefits to individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. If you've been laid off due to the COVID-19 situation, you may qualify for benefits.

For information, including eligibility and how to apply, visit the official government EI website.

If you are sick or quarantined and meet the requirements for EI, you should apply for the EI sickness benefit.

For information, including eligibility and how to submit an application, visit the EI sickness benefit website.

If you qualify for EI and are caring for someone who is sick or quarantined, you may be eligible for EI caregiver benefits.

For information, including a full list of what you need to apply and eligibility, visit the EI caregiver benefits website.


FEDERAL HIGHLIGHTS FOR FAMILIES:

  • Canadian Emergency Response Benefit - $500 per week as temporary income support
  • Changes to Employment Insurance to make it easier and faster to apply and receive support as well as EI Sickness Benefit and EI Caregiver Benefit
  • One-time Increase to the Goods and Services Tax Credit - Maximum increase $ 400/individual and $ 600/couple
  • Increase in the Child Tax Benefit for 2019/20 Benefit Year - $ 300 per child
  • Increased flexibility for taxpayers - 2019 tax filing due date deferred to June 1, 2020
  • A one-time, tax-free payment of up to $ 600 for individuals who qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) - announced June 5, 2020. For the official rules and announcement, please visit this page.

For an overview of federal supports visit the Government of Canada website.

ONTARIO HIGHLIGHTS FOR FAMILIES

  • One-time payments to families through the Ministry of Education (see below for details)
  • Reduction in electricity bills
  • Doubling the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low income seniors
  • Short term financial support for people in an emergency situation
  • People receiving ODSP or ODSP Works can receive emergency benefits to help with COVID-19 expenses - $100/individual and $200/family

The Ontario Government has provided an Action Plan outlining all of their COVID-19 initiatives.

Housing Support

The Government, through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), is providing increased flexibility for homeowners facing financial difficulties to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans. CMHC will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.

Homeowners facing financial stress due to COVID-19 may be eligible for a mortgage payment deferral to help ease the financial burden. So far, six major banks (RBC, TD, BMO, CIBC, Scotiabank and National Bank of Canada) have pledged to let eligible customers postpone mortgage payments for up to six months. Canadians may also qualify to access pre-existing skip-a-payment options that usually allow for one payment deferral per year on certain mortgages. 

The CMHC website provides the most up to date information regarding mortgage payment deferrals. You may also want to read this article on Dealing With Mortgage Payment Difficulties.

Most provinces don't have rental-specific support payments available during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, most provinces have at least taken the step to freeze evictions. We've listed a couple of resources with further information below: 

Rate Hub provides an excellent round-up of what rental supports are available in each province across the country.

The City of Toronto has a comprehensive page covering topics like bills and tax relief for tenants and property owners during the pandemic. 

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation also provides updates on eviction moratoriums related to COVID-19. Because rental housing falls under provincial jurisdiction, please make sure to find the province you’re renting in and read the rules as they apply there.

211 Ontario provides a searchable list of available shelters.

Legal and Financial Support

There have been a few updates to the legal landscape as a result of the pandemic. The most significant change is that lawyers are now permitted to witness the signings of Wills and Power of Attorneys through online video platforms.

The PooranLaw Resource Centre provides regular updates and resources on legal and tax considerations impacted as a result of COVID-19.

The extreme volatility of the markets has every investor worried. The impact COVID-19 is having on stock markets has been unprecedented with major drops one day and big gains the next day. We strongly recommend you speak with your Financial Advisor or if you don't have an advisor, you may find one on the Professional Services Directory on the Planning Network.
The Canadian Bankers Association provides Covid-19 Updates for each financial institution.

Food and Essentials Support

We’ve listed some links to food banks and maps below.
Daily Bread Food Banks
Food Banks Canada - Find a Food Bank Map
Feed Ontario - Interactive map of food banks in Ontario

Please note that it is important to check each food bank location by calling in advance to see if they are open. Many food banks are operating with reduced locations and hours due to COVID-19.

If you are unable to leave your home to get food or medicine, many grocery stores and pharmacies are offering home delivery. Here are a selection:

Grocery Delivery:
There are a wide range of grocery stores offering delivery and self-service pick-up. One option is PC Express, which allows you to order from stores including No Frills, Loblaws and Zehrs. Another option is Costco. For other choices, Global News has compiled an excellent list of grocery delivery options.

Pharmacies:
It’s best to call your pharmacy to find out if they are offering home delivery during this time (a lot of pharmacies are).
If your pharmacy isn’t, consider using another online service, such as Well.ca, which is offering contactless prescription filling. Rexall and Shoppers Drug Mart also offer online prescription services.

Ontario Community Support Association:
The OCSA is committed to helping vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, get food, medicine and other essentials during COVID-19. Please visit their website for more information.

Caremongers:
If neither of those options help, a community of Caremongers have sprung up across Canada in response to the crisis. Caremongers are essentially a group of volunteers who’ve banded together to pool their resources and time to help others, by picking up groceries and other essentials for people who are unable. 

We recommend visiting the Caremongering Facebook group. Or, search 'Caremonger' and your city on Facebook to find people locally. And check out our resource COVID-19 Staying Connected for other tips on finding Caremongers.

Good Neighbours Project:
Similar to the caremongering community, The Good Neighbours Project is a community on Facebook of people volunteering their time and resources to help those in need.

Social Media/Friends and Family network:
If you’re still struggling, consider posting an ask for help on social media or speaking with family and friends or others in your community.

Food for free
Some organizations, such as Operation Ramzieh, have been set up to deliver free food boxes to seniors or those in need. It is worth calling your local restaurants to see if they have similar programs in place, as a lot of them will donate meals locally to those who need them.

Personal Support Workers

For the safety of all, many people are nervous with PSWs working inside their home especially if the worker provides support to numerous people. If you are comfortable, you may have your support person work with only one person.

Alternatively, in some cases, PSWs are able to provide supports virtually or provide some support through online video platforms. A PSWs unable to to provide direct support may be able to offer support by picking up groceries or other essentials to support the person or family.

Check with your PSW or agency to discuss support options that would also allow you to comply with social distancing rules. 

Personal Protective Equipment is available online for purchase - it’s best to do an online search for ‘personal protective equipment’ to see what’s currently in stock and delivers to your area. You may also use home-made masks to reduce spreading the virus and there are numerous designs available online, including masks that do not require sewing.

BlogTO provides a comprehensive list locations to buy reusable and disposable masks in Toronto. There are hopefully similiar suppliers coming forward in other cities across Ontario.

Please note that hospitals and clinics are experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment. In most cases, it is not imperative that people other than frontline healthcare workers wear gowns and N-95 masks. Please speak with the family you work with, your agency, or your governing body to understand the protocol you should follow.


Community Living Toronto created a fantastic video that walks you through the process of putting on and disposing of PPE safely.

If you have a support worker visiting your home, here are some steps they can follow to ensure everyone remains safe:

  • Have them remove shoes and outer clothing (coats, jackets). 
  • Ask the support worker to wash their hands with soap and water. Hands should be washed for 15 seconds. If you need a refresher on hand-washing, this guide from Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities is a good one to follow. 
  • If soap and water aren’t available, an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can be used instead.
  • Everyone in the home should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. 
  • If at any point the support worker has come in contact with people who are sick, consider asking them to stay home.
  • If at any point the support worker has come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, it is imperative that they stay in quarantine for 14 days. 

Mental Health Assistance

  • Empowering Abilities offers weekly support calls. When you visit the site, a pop-up form will provide an option to register for the calls. 
  • Good Things in Life - Offers a supportive community for those with children who have intellectual disabilities.
  • PLAN Hotline - You can contact the PLAN hotline 1-844-311-7526 with any questions if you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • PLAN and the Sibling Collaborative are hosting online meet-ups. Check PLAN’s Twitter Feed or Facebook page for updates on when new sessions will be available.
  • The Caregiver Organization Hotline - 1-833-416-2273 - You can also contact this hotline 24/7 as a caregiver looking for support. 

The saying ‘You can’t take care of anyone until you take care of yourself’ couldn’t be more appropriate in these times. Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities Information COVID-19 page has a wealth of disability-focused resources.

The Ontario Caregivers Organization has compiled a Tip-Sheet for managing caregiver stress and anxiety.

Psychology Today has an excellent Pandemic Toolkit with advice from experts that helps families stay regulated.

It can be difficult explaining the need to socially distance, change daily routines and implement protective practices. The Talking to a Loved One document provides a good overview for families and others supporting someone with a developmental disability.

The Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (HCARDD) has developed resources that can aid you in having these types of conversations, as well as resources for mental health support for those with disabilities and their caregivers.

Ask MaryH is an online resource that helps those in the Greater Toronto area find a licensed therapist. 15 minute consultations are free. Visit their website for more information.

Family Services Toronto is an organization that offers assistance to families and individuals through counselling, community development, advocacy and education programs. They are providing a number of virtual services, including counselling and mental health support, in response to COVID-19. Full information is available here.

Medical Care

There have been widespread reports about families not being able to accompany their loved one if they are hospitalized. This is a huge stress for families, especially for those who have a loved one who depends on their families and support workers to help them communicate.

Surrey Place has created an excellent resource for families to help them prepare for a hospitalization. This resource includes a transfer form which families can fill out and have ready to share with hospital staff. Download the form HERE.

Genia Stephen of Good Things in Life has partnered with Community Living Ontario to present a workshop for families on how to advocate for their loved one if they do require medical care. The workshop is available here as well as an additional podcast recorded with Genia and nurses from Gritty Nurse.  You can listen here

Most doctor’s offices are offering virtual appointments for their patients. Call your medical office to see what options they are making available to patients.

Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (HCARDD) has created a video demonstrating to families what they can expect from a virtual doctor’s visit. 

Toronto Public Health outlines the steps families need to take if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or suspect they have fallen ill.

Outside of the Toronto area, families can connect their local municipality to determine where the need to go for testing.

Masks and PPE

As provinces begin to open up for business, it's important to remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Wearing a mask, not touching your face, washing your hands and continuing to maintain social distancing rules can all help reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

York University professor and microbiologist Dr. Dasantila Golemi-Kotra has a few other suggestions to help people stay safe, including checking that businesses you visit are practising good hygiene and limiting the number of locations you visit on any one trip. Read the full list of her recommendations here

Wearing non-medical masks in situations where it's difficult to enforce a 2 metre distance between people can help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

This article lists 15 different online retailers that offer shipping in Canada and have masks that are in-keeping with the guidelines set by the Public Health Service.

Canada's Public Health Service has guidelines detailing what you should look for when choosing a non-medical mask. The following information is taken directly from the Government of Canada website

When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.

Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:

  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • maintain their shape after washing and drying
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
  • be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping

Some masks also include a pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, for increased benefit.

Non-medical masks or face coverings should not:

  • be shared with others
  • impair vision or interfere with tasks
  • be placed on children under the age of 2 years
  • be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
  • be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
  • be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
  • be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing
For more information, please visit the Canadian government's dedicated resource page on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Prevention and Risks.

Wearing a mask is one of the recommended ways in which people can help keep the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum. However for some children with disabilities, be they mental, physical or cognitive, wearing a mask isn't possible. 

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital has put together an excellent resource that answers common questions around this issue including:

  • What do I say to people if my child is not wearing a mask?
  • How can I support my child in mask-wearing?
  • If my child cannot wear a mask, what safety practices can I use?
Please visit their resource page for more information. 

Thank you

This page was compiled using resources from various organizations. We are grateful to PooranLaw, the Bright Futures Ability Network and the Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities for providing helpful resources during this time.