I hope you are well. Many of us will be celebrating Easter or Passover, and this long weekend is normally a time when we would get together with friends and family. But now, to keep our friends and family safe, we must visit them virtually. It's a difficult change to make, but there are still ways that we can connect with our loved ones as well as the community around us. On Good Friday at 7:30 pm, let's stand on our balconies and porches and applaud the healthcare and essential service workers who are working hard to keep us safe and provide us with essentials during this pandemic.
It's also important to acknowledge that many of our essential service workers are poorly paid and this is something that we must correct. Before the pandemic, to make a living many Personal Support Workers (PSWs) had to hold jobs in two or three long-term care homes in order to scrape together a living. This is one of the reasons for the rapid spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes and the loss of life there. This is more reason why we need to make sure that PSWs have access to a living wage, so they can work just one job.
Easter and Passover both revolve around stories of sacrifice, redemption and community. It's an important time for us to reach out and offer support to others. We have received many calls and emails from community members looking for ways to help including from those who’ve completed my office’s COVID-19 consultation and expressed interest in volunteering and getting involved. Please see the Helping Neighbours section below for ways that you can help out. If you haven’t shared your experience of COVID-19 with us yet, you can give us your thoughts here.
I recognize that this is also a lonely time for people. If you need someone to talk to, I will keep the office phone forwarded over the weekend. I can be reached at 416-603-9664.
We are all making a sacrifice right now for the greater good. The actions we are taking are saving lives. Thank you for everything you are doing to help us all get through this.
Canada Summer Jobs Grant
In an effort to help support students, the Federal Government has expanded the Canada Summer Jobs grant for employers to create a 100% wage subsidy for students, eligibility for part-time work, and expand the timeframe beyond the summer to the end of February 2021. These are good first steps, but not nearly enough. With many workplaces considered ‘non-essential’ and work transitioned to online work, students lack opportunities they would regularly have for employment. Students need direct financial support for their tuition fees and living expenses and we will continue to advocate for more action from the Provincial and Federal governments.
Updated Testing Guidelines for Vulnerable Populations
In order to boost Ontario’s testing numbers, the government has created updated guidelines for COVID-19 tests for vulnerable populations. This includes a new directive to long-term care homes, who have been struck with multiple outbreaks across the province, that all staff and essential visitors wear PPE equipment for the entirety of their shift or visit, and additional testing requirements for healthcare workers, first responders and other caregivers.
Practicing physical distancing has limited what we can do in our free time but that doesn’t mean all we have are TV and movies. Follow this link to take a virtual tour through some of Toronto’s art galleries and museums.
Helping Your Neighbours
While the government takes action, organizations in our community continue to do great work. The following agencies are looking for assistance in our area:
City of Toronto has created a partnership with the Red Cross and the United Way to get food baskets delivered to seniors who can’t afford online grocery delivery. Call 1-833-204-9952 or 2-1-1 for more information.
Salvation Army, Florence Booth House, 723 Queen St W (416) 603-9800
Shelter for women experiencing homelessness is requesting: hand sanitizer (ideally the kind that will fit on a key-chain); facemasks; rubber gloves; disinfectant wipes
Fort York Food Bank, 380 College St (416) 203-3011
Requesting donations of soap, gloves, disinfectant
St. Stephen’s Community House: Looking for donations of food, gift cards and hygiene supplies for vulnerable people on the street. (Call 416-925-2103 x7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Yonge St Mission: Asking for donations to support low income individuals, families, children, youth
Daily Bread Food Bank: Asking for donations
Mobilizing Masks for Healthcare Providers: Aims to collect masks for healthcare workers
Organizations Looking to Help
- Community Legal Education Ontario Steps to Justice: Provides COVID-19 legal information related to housing, employment, and family law
- Worker’s Action Centre: Provides advice for workers about their rights via phone, in numerous languages (Hotline: 416-531-0778, Toll-free: 1-855-531-0778)
- Crisis Support for Abused Women & Seniors Amid COVID019 Pandemic: 24/7 crisis counselling hotline for women and seniors facing abuse in Ontario
GTA: 416-863-0511 (TTY - 416-364-8762)
Senior Safety Line: 1-866-299-1011
- Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council: Serving the needs of the Indigenous community (Hotline: 647-957-8372, Email: email@example.com)
Emergency Support Funds
- Glad Day Emergency Survival Fund: Emergency fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers and tip-based workers
- Maggie’s Toronto Emergency Fund for Sex Workers: One-time emergency fund for current sex workers in the GTA
- Canadian Artist + Musician Relief Fund: Weekly financial support for low-income GTA artists and musicians whose livelihoods are affected by COVID
- Facebook-National Arts Centre Fund for Performing Artists: Provides $100,000 in artist fees to support online performances between now and March 31, 2020
- Format Photographer Relief Fund: Assistance of up to $500 per person to self-employed photographers facing financial hardship
- TOArtist COVID Relief Fund: Provides $1000 grants for Toronto-based, self-employed artists/arts professionals. Applications accepted until April 30th
Mutual Aid Networks
- GDNA Help/Give Forum: Community residents can ask for help and other residents can offer assistance
- Asian Unification Project: Targets Asian people who are disabled, immunocompromised, or 50+. Individuals can request grocery delivery or errand running
- CareMongering-TO: TO Community Response to COVID19. Can request or offer aid (including grocery delivery and other resources) by posting in the Facebook group, filling in a Google form (to offer aid), or filling in a spreadsheet (to request aid)
- Friendly Neighbour Hotline (UHN Open Lab): Toronto seniors who live in low-income housing can request grocery and supply aid. Torontonians can volunteer after a vetting process and online training. 1-855-581-9580 (Hotline Phone Number)
- Good Neighbour Project: GTA-wide, Facebook-based network of community members willing to assist with supply and grocery delivery to those with disabilities, compromised immune systems, accessibility barriers, and the elderly. Requests for aid can be made by calling the helpline (647-873-2230) or sending an email
- The 519 (Community Centre serving the LGBTQ2S community): Free takeaway meals, 7 days a week 1pm and 4pm, Monday to Friday 12:30pm, 12:30pm Saturday and Sunday. Location: In front of the Fabarnak Cafe, 519 Church St.
- Canadian Muslim Response Network: Anyone in need across Toronto can request emergency kits including non-perishable food items, and essential hygiene and cleaning products.
- Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre: Bagged meals available for pick-up only at the side door. Weekdays: Breakfast: 9:00 AM - 9:30 AM; Lunch: 12:00 PM - 12:30 PM; Dinner: 3:15 PM - 3:45 PM. Weekends: Breakfast: 9:00 AM - 9:30 AM; Lunch: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM (Sunday 12-12:30). Location: 439 Dundas St. E. at Parliament
- Theneighbourgood.com: Not-for-profit that allows safe purchase of gift cards for use later in restaurants, shops
- Volunteer Toronto: Sign up to join volunteers helping during the crisis
The public health agency of Canada is now recommending that everyone who goes outside who cannot avoid being within six feet of other people should be wearing a mask. As they have learned more about the transmission of COVID-19, and with the experience of other countries such as the Czech Republic, more health agencies are recommending that everyone wear a mask when they go outside. Wearing a homemade mask (as opposed to an N95 mask reserved for frontline health workers) could be a good idea when in close contact with others, like at the grocery store or on public transit. Canada's top doctor said today -- this shouldn't replace social distancing and frequent hand-washing, and Canadians should continue staying home unless absolutely necessary.
Here is a link to one of the many sites offering tips on how to make your own mask. My office has reusable grocery bags that we’ve been told is a suitable fabric for the exterior of homemade masks. If you would like some, please contact my office.
We have received a number of concerns about people not being able to pay their April rent and people receiving eviction notices. If you receive an eviction notice please contact our office. Our advocacy to ensure that no one is penalized for late/missed rent or evicted also extends to commercial rents. We have created a petition calling for emergency income and a petition to make evictions illegal.
Need legal advice? Pro Bono Ontario is offering support for landlords and tenants at 1-855-255-7256 Monday to Friday, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Health Workforce Portal
The Ontario government has launched a new Health Workforce Matching Portal that will enable retired or non-active health care professionals, internationally educated health care professionals, students, and volunteers with health care experience to join the province's response to COVID-19. The portal will efficiently match the availability and skillsets of frontline health care workers to the employers in need of assistance to perform a variety of public health functions, such as case and contact management.
- The Save Main Street proposal is a plan to keep small and medium-sized businesses afloat, with greater supports for companies, charities and community-based nonprofits.
- Call to cancel and cover the prescription drug co-payments required of seniors during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Changes needed to Long-term Care Facilities