COVID-19: Update on Government Benefits

As Ontario enters Stage 3 of its reopening of the province, and Canadian families prepare for “back to school,” the many that have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak are left wondering whether the benefits introduced by the federal and provincial governments will continue into the fall. People with disabilities, in particular, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, experiencing greater social isolation, higher costs and reduced availability of personal support workers, challenges in accessing disability supports and essential items, and additional travel to obtain groceries or prescriptions.

There have been several updates to the measures that were introduced by the federal government and government of Ontario since the start of the pandemic, in addition to new government initiatives. We have provided an overview of these measures in our roundup below.


ODSP/OW Emergency Benefit

In March 2020, the government of Ontario introduced a one-time discretionary increase available to people receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (“ODSP”) benefits or Ontario Works (“OW”), if they demonstrated urgent health and safety needs during the COVID-19 outbreak. For those that were approved for the benefit by their caseworkers, a month-to-month increase in ODSP or OW was received until July 2020. Currently, if ODSP or OW recipients have exceptional COVID-19 related costs, they may consult their local caseworker about discretionary benefits.

Ontario Emergency Assistance Program

The Ontario Emergency Assistance Program is available to those who are not receiving ODSP benefits or OW and are in crisis or emergency situations. Eligible recipients may not have enough funding for essentials because they are affected by COVID-19, have faced eviction, are in or leaving an abusive relationship or are worried about their safety. The program can be accessed online or by calling an OW office.

Temporary Changes to Passport and Special Services at Home (“SSAH”)

Temporary changes to Passport and SSAH funding that were introduced in April are still in effect. The government of Ontario expanded the list of eligible expenses available to recipients of Passport or SSAH funding to include items that facilitate at-home activities. Items such as gym equipment and technology (laptops and tablets) are included on the list for better home-based recreation and fitness. Items that help cope with stress and anxiety, such as sensory items and behavioural support plans, are also included, in addition to essential items needed during the pandemic, such as personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and delivery fees for services such as groceries or medications. For a complete list of new eligible expenses, visit the Passport and SSAH websites. Eligible recipients should ensure that they save any receipts, invoices and supporting documents with proof of payment for these expenses.

In addition, the Passport and SSAH programs have provided 25% in advance funding to recipients for the 2020/21 period. Recipients should have received the advance funding in June 2020. Recipients should have also received up to $1,000 from their remaining 2019/20 budget amount in May 2020. The deadline to submit claims from 2019/20 has been waived for SSAH recipients as well.


Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”), which provides temporary income support to Canadians who have stopped working or are working less during the COVID-19 outbreak, has been extended to a total of 7 months (28 weeks). Canadians receiving CERB must re-apply for it every 4 weeks. Since early July 2020, the federal government has also required Canadians applying for CERB to attest that they are looking for work and will accept a reasonable offer when appropriate.

Eligible Canadians can apply for the CERB online or by phone at 1-833-966-2099. The end date for CERB is October 3, 2020, but it may be received retroactively – the deadline to apply is December 2, 2020.

For ODSP and OW recipients, CERB is still partially exempt, meaning that the first $200 of the CERB payment, plus 50 per cent of each additional dollar received will be exempt as income every month. For a CERB payment of $2,000 per month, for example, ODSP and OW recipients will be allowed to keep up to $1,100 on top of their monthly ODSP and OW benefits.

Read our comprehensive article on the CERB here.

Federal Disability Benefit

The federal disability benefit has finally been approved by the federal government, after not being passed in Parliament the first time around. The one-time, tax-free, $600 payment will be made available to Canadians with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (“DTC”), Canada Pension Plan Disability (“CPP-D”), Quebec Pension Plan Disability and disability supports from Veterans Affairs Canada. The payment will be issued automatically to eligible recipients in fall 2020. Canadians not eligible for the DTC will have until September 25, 2020 to apply for the DTC.

The federal disability payment will be adjusted for seniors, where Canadians who are eligible for the Old Age Security (“OAS”) pension will receive $300 and Canadians eligible for both the OAS and Guaranteed Income Supplement (“GIS”) will receive $500.

Click here for more on the federal disability benefit.

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

The new Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) will be available to eligible Canadians who are unable to work for at least 60% of their normal schedule because they care for a child, a family member with a disability, or a dependent. Eligible recipients must be employed or self-employed and have earned at least $5,000 in 2019 or 2020. The CRCB will provide $500 per week per household, for up to 26 weeks. While the federal government intends to introduce legislation to support the new benefit, it states that the CRCB will be effective from September 27, 2020 for one year.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit

Post-secondary, recent post-secondary, and high school graduates studying in Canada or abroad who are unable to work, cannot find work, or are working less due to the COVID-19 outbreak, are eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). Eligible students will receive $1,250 for each 4-week pay period, or $2,000 if students have a disability or dependants. You can apply online or by phone at 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. The deadline to apply is September 30, 2020.

Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy

For individuals or families that have hired support workers during the pandemic, the temporary 10% wage subsidy may be a welcome relief. The Temporary 10% Wage subsidy is available to small employers that have a Canadian business number and payroll program account with the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) as of March 18, 2020. The program allows employers to reduce payroll deductions that are remitted to the CRA. The subsidy is equal to 10% of any remuneration paid from March 18 to June 19, 2020, of up to $1,375 for each employee. For more on the Temporary 10% wage subsidy, click here.

PooranLaw will continue to monitor ongoing changes to government benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.