COVID-19: Social Assistance and Direct Funding Round-Up

Posted May 8, 2020

The federal government and government of Ontario have put numerous measures in place to help Canadians during the COVID-19 outbreak, including assistance for low-income or vulnerable Canadians. People with disabilities, many of whom receive Ontario Disability Support Program (“ODSP”) or Ontario Works (“OW”) benefits, or funding from the Passport or Special Services at Home (“SSAH”) program, are left wondering how they may be impacted by these measures and what effect they will have, if any, on their social assistance and/or direct funding. To provide some guidance, PooranLaw has compiled a list of these measures and their interaction with social assistance or direct funding programs in our round-up below.

ODSP, OW and the CERB

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) will be partially exempt for ODSP and OW recipients. For existing ODSP and OW recipients, every month, the first $200 of the CERB payment, plus 50 per cent of each additional dollar received will be exempt as income. This means that ODSP and OW recipients who receive a CERB payment of $2,000 per month will be allowed to keep up to $1,100 on top of their monthly ODSP and OW benefits.

ODSP and OW recipients are guaranteed not to lose access to health benefits, even if they surpass income thresholds. Even if ODSP and OW recipients become financially ineligible for social assistance, they will remain on social assistance at a nominal amount to ensure access to benefits and supports.

A note of caution: while, at the moment, it seems as though anyone can apply and receive the CERB, we recommend that you ensure that you are eligible for the CERB before applying. The Canada Revenue Agency will undoubtedly verify CERB claims in the future, and there is a risk that those who do not qualify for the CERB will have to pay it back.

Click here for more on the ODSP, OW and the CERB.

ODSP and OW Monthly Emergency Benefit

Recipients of ODSP and OW are eligible for a monthly Emergency Benefit of up to $100 for single individuals and $200 for families, which has been recently extended to July 2020. Those who already received the Emergency Benefit in March or April will automatically receive the benefit in May, June and July.

ODSP and OW recipients requesting the Emergency Benefit now must demonstrate urgent health and safety needs due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Examples of possible needs include personal protective equipment for visits to hospitals or clinics; cleaning supplies if you have been ordered to stay at home or are caring for a family member with COVID-19; delivery costs for groceries, medical supplies or other essential supplies; or travel costs to pick up food, medical supplies or other supplies.  To access the emergency benefit, contact your local caseworker or email

Note that the emergency benefit will not be available to those receiving the CERB, except in cases where the CERB is fully exempt (i.e. for youth under 18, adults in full-time secondary school and full-time post-secondary students.)

Temporary Changes to the Passport program and SSAH program

Because many community-based resources are unavailable during the COVID-19 outbreak, the list of eligible expenses under the Passport program and SSAH program has been expanded to include items for home-based activities. The new eligible expenses include:

  • Sensory items: to alleviate anxiety and stress, and support any clinical or behavioural plans.
  • Technology: for virtual and online learning and skills development activities, including goods and services such as laptops, tablets, webcams, microphones, e-readers, videogames, online and e-learning activities and resources, media service subscriptions and platforms (e.g. Netflix, Xbox Live, Disney+) and remote monitoring devices and medical alert services and devices.
  • Home-based Recreation and Fitness Activities: for (i) home-based hobbies and activities, such as arts and craft supplies, hobby supplies, puzzles, games and books, and for (ii) home-based physical activity and fitness, such as indoor items and equipment and fitness/sport equipment and supplies.
  • Personal Protective Equipment and Supplies: for safety at home and in the community, such as gloves, masks, gowns, cleaning supplies, and if required, goggles and face shields.
  • Essential Service Delivery Fees: for the delivery of essential items to the home, such as groceries or medications.
  • Behavioural Support Plans and Related Interventions: for the development of behavioural support plans, recommended interventions delivered in person or virtually, and support strategies to reduce challenging behaviours or crisis situations.

Those receiving Passport or SSAH funding should ensure to save any receipts, invoices and supporting documents with proof of payment for these expenses.

In order to take advantage of the new eligible expenses, Passport and SSAH will also provide 25 per cent of funding for this year in advance to recipients. In addition, the deadline to file claims from 2019-20 has been waived.

For more on the temporary changes to the Passport program, click here, and for the SSAH program, click here.

PooranLaw will continue to monitor legal developments related to social assistance and direct funding.  In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.

Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.