Phase 1 of Re-Opening
On May 14th, the Government of Ontario announced the province’s first step in re-opening. The list of businesses, services and sites allowed to re-open can be found here. Guidelines for the safe re-opening of various sectors can be found here.
On May 19th, the government also announced an exemption to the emergency order related to gatherings to allow Ontarians to attend drive-in religious gatherings, under certain conditions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Requirements for drive-in services can be found here.
Schools & Childcare
The Government of Ontario has ordered the closure of all daycare services and learning institutions (including independent schools). All schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. Overnight summer camps have been cancelled for the 2020 season. Day camps may resume as key public health indicators continue to improve.
A gradual reopening of child care is expected to begin when the province is ready to transition to Stage 2 based on public health criteria. Emergency childcare remains open for frontline workers.
The government is helping families by providing a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including children enrolled in private schools. For more information, access CIJA’s Support for Families resource here.
The Ministry of Education has launched a Learn from Home portal to offer at-home math and literacy activities for students in kindergarten through grade 12. English and French-language materials will continue to be added to Learn at Home on a regular basis to provide new and compelling content throughout this period. Recent updates include supplemental STEM learning resources created by third-parties and a parent resource that is focused on reading and writing. The Learn at Home portal can be accessed here.
Support for Small Businesses
The Ontario Government is committing $241 million to partner with the federal government and deliver more than $900 million in urgent relief to small businesses and their landlords through a new program, the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA). The OCECRA will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing potential rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Job Protection Measures
The Province of Ontario passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 on March 19, 2020. The Act protects workers who must take time off because of isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or who must care for relatives due to closures or illness related to COVID-19. A medical note is not required, and measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020. The Act applies to the majority of Ontario employees, including full-time and part-time workers, students, employees of temporary help agencies, and casual workers. It does not apply to federal employees or employees under federal jurisdiction. Details of the Act are available here.
Employer Health Tax
As part of Ontario’s Action Plan, the Government is increasing the Employer Health Tax exemption for 2020 from $490,000 to $1 million and a five‑month relief period for Ontario businesses who are unable to file or remit their provincial taxes on time due to the special circumstances caused by the coronavirus (COVID‑19) in Ontario.
Additional details are available here.
Extending Validation Periods
There is increased flexibility for Driver, Vehicle and Carrier Products, Services and Health Cards which expire. Additional details are available here.
There will be six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief for student borrowers, in partnership with the federal government. Further details are available here.
Low-income Energy Assistance Program
Under Ontario’s Action Plan, the government is providing $9 million in direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low‑income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and by ensuring that their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for nonpayment during the COVID‑19 outbreak.
Further details on LEAP are available here.
Support for Seniors
Under Ontario’s Action Plan The Province is providing immediate financial support of an additional $75 million to 194,000 vulnerable seniors, who may need more help to cover essential expenses during the COVID‑19 outbreak, by proposing to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) maximum payment for low-income seniors, for six months starting in April 2020. This would increase the maximum payment to $166 per month for individuals and $332 per month for couples.
Medical resources & Assessment Centres
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, contact your primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. The Government of Ontario is asking individuals not to visit an assessment centre unless you have been referred by a healthcare professional. Do not call 911 unless it is an emergency.
Public Health Updates
The Government of Ontario is updating the public on the status of cases in the province everyday at 10:30am and 5:30pm. The Government has also updated its self-assessment tool. All health resources, including the self-assessment tool can be found at this link. The Government of Ontario has asked everyone in the province to practice social distancing, and only visit essential business such as grocery stores and pharmacies when necessary.
On March 28, 2020, the Ontario Government announced a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to prohibit organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people, effective immediately.
The Government of Ontario has advised against any travel and has emphasized that all Ontarians returning from abroad (including the United States) remain in their homes for 14 days upon arrival in Ontario. The Ontario government is also waiving the 3-month waiting period for new residents of Ontario to access the Ontario Health Insurance Program. Further information is available here.
Rent and Flexibility
City of Toronto residents will have an extra 60 days to pay property tax, water and solid waste utility bills, retroactive to March 16th. More information on City of Toronto affected services can be found at this link.
On March 24, 2020, Toronto Community Housing confirmed that it will be flexible and work with market rent and rent-geared-to-income (RGI) tenants whose employment income has been impacted by COVID-19. More details about this announcement are available here.
Evictions and Repossession of Dwellings
As of March 19, 2020 the Government of Ontario announced that all in-person hearings at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) are postponed and will be rescheduled to a later date. Front-line counter services are also closed until further notice. The Board will consider written hearings or telephone hearings for some cases. The court has also ordered that all residential evictions cease. Read the Court’s decision can be read at this link.
Funerals in Ontario
The Bereavement Association of Ontario has issued a number of directives for funeral home and cemeteries:
- All cemeteries in Ontario are directed to open their cemeteries and be available for interments immediately, or as soon as possible if restricted by ground conditions.
- All funerals, as of now, must be limited to a maximum of 10 people. Funeral homes must limit this number to less than 10 people at one time if the funeral home cannot allow people to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres (six feet) apart from each other at all times.
- Interments and burials must not be delayed.