Important Info For:

INCOME SUPPORT

The government has rolled out emergency measures to aid with the financial crisis affecting all of us. The situation is rapidly changing, but as of the end of March, here is what we know:

Employment Insurance Benefits

Here are some common situations that will likely entitle you to get EI:

  • Your boss lays off staff or shuts down the workplace entirely.
  • You choose to stay home from work due to illness (including precautionary self-isolation or COVID-19 quarantine).
  • You choose to stay home from work to care for a sick family member.

Emergency Care Benefit

  • For workers (with no paid sick leave and who are ineligible for EI sickness benefits) who must stay home:
    1. To care for others who are sick.
    2. To care for children due to school closures and lack of childcare.

Emergency Support Benefit

  • For unemployed workers who are ineligible for EI.

Applications for these programs will be open in April either through the Canada Revenue Agency or Service Canada.


TENANTS

What we know

The provincial government has announced that all evictions have been suspended for the foreseeable future “until ordered otherwise by the court [Ontario Superior Court].” The LTB will not issue any new eviction orders “until further notice.” Sheriff’s offices “have been asked” by the Province not to carry out outstanding eviction orders. Sheriffs in Hamilton have so far complied with this request. (March 19, 2020)

The provincial government has announced that all Landlord & Tenant Board in-person hearings are cancelled. LTB hearings will be rescheduled for a later in-person date or replaced with telephone or videoconference hearings. (March 13, 2020)

The federal government has announced a 6-month mortgage payment deferral (“mortgage holiday”) for property owners in partnership with the top six banks: Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank (March 17, 2020). Our landlords don’t have to pay their mortgages, so why should we have to pay our rents?

What this means

With the eviction system at a stand still, landlords cannot bring tenants to the LTB and they cannot enforce evictions against tenants. The risk of eviction is very low.

There is a growing movement of tenants across Ontario who are pledging to #KeepYourRent on April 1, May 1, and for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

We should keep our rent. Our landlords will be fine. We may not be. No tenant should feel forced to hand over so much money when faced with so much uncertainty. You should keep your rent. Whatever you have, hang on to it. Once you give it to your landlord, it’s gone. You won’t have it for food or for medicine. You won’t have it for you, your family, your friends, your neighbours, or your co-workers – no-one. Your landlord will have it. It will go in their bank account and it will secure their investments. While you and everyone you care about stares down the barrel of insecurity.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, many tenant groups across Canada and the world are demanding (1) Rent freeze! and (2) No rent debt! We will be more likely win these demands through direct action (hundreds of thousands of people refusing to pay rent, thereby overloading the Landlord & Tenant Board system) than through petitions or appeals to politicians.

If you can’t afford to pay, don’t pay. If you can afford to pay, still don’t pay, in solidarity with your neighbours.

It is important to connect with your neighbours NOW (on your floor, in your building, on your block, in your neighbourhood) in a safe way before a full lockdown is imposed. Get each other’s contact info and set up a phone tree or Whatsapp group. If your landlord does retaliate for collective non-payment of rent, there is safety in numbers. As a group, you will be better able to respond to the landlord’s bullying, refusal to make repairs, etc.

Adapted from “Toronto: Keep Your Rent” by Parkdale Organize.


MIGRANTS

As of March 20, 2020: All migrants, regardless of immigration status in Ontario, will have access to COVID-19 related healthcare.

Need help? Contact Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Questions about immigration, work, bills, etc.? Contact Migrant Workers Alliance for Change hotlines via call, text, or WhatsApp.

  • Migrant care workers: 647-782-6633
  • Migrant farm workers: 905-324-2840 (ENG) or 289-990-4519 (ESP)
  • Migrant students: 647-858-2854
  • No status? Contact info@migrantworkersalliance.org

Migrant Rights Network is demanding:

  1. Healthcare for all

Access without fear – regardless of immigration status – to free, universal, and expanded healthcare, including testing.

  1. Worker protections

Measures enacted to protect workers must include: strong anti-reprisal protections for workers taking time off; income security and open work permits for migrants who will lose wages or jobs because of sickness, quarantine or economic downturn, including those who must travel here to work; increased access to EI including special benefits; a federal emergency fund to provide non-repayable allowance for those experiencing a loss or interruption of earnings including those outside Canada; and access to paid emergency leave as needed, with a minimum of 21 days for all workers, regardless of immigration status.

  1. Stop detentions and deportations. Status for all.

Enact an immediate moratorium on all immigration enforcement (detentions and deportations). People detained in prisons and detention centres are exposed to increased spread of illness but are denied access to quality health care. They must be released. Work permit and permanent resident status rules must be relaxed or removed, and open permits granted swiftly to workers in transition, to ensure no one falls out of status because of job loss, school closures and travel restrictions.

  1. Increased funding for food banks, emergency shelters, etc.

Migrant and non-status families must be granted access to housing, shelter, universal child care, food, and other basic protections freely without economic barriers, or fear of immigration enforcement.

  1. Let migrant and community organizations lead the response for migrant workers.

Read the full text and sign the petition here.


UNHOUSED PEOPLE

Many drop in programs, community meal programs, food banks, and emergency shelters are still operational. Some have reduced hours or have changed the way they deliver their services.

Couch-Surfing During COVID-19

Try to reduce the amount of places you are staying, if possible. Try to arrange for a more prolonged stay with a friend or family member. If this is not possible, be sure to wash your hands before you enter the space and after you leave it.

Sleeping Outside and Camping

Try to access public hand washing stations where they are available. For example, Jackson Square restrooms are still open and there is also hand sanitizer in there. Avoid touching your face. Tying a scarf around your nose and mouth can help with this. Try your best to practice social distancing and reach out to Shelter Health or your doctor if you or any of your friends are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Staying at a Shelter

It will be very difficult to practice social distancing while staying in a shelter environment. Try your best to wash your hands frequently and to avoid getting too close to other residents, especially if they are symptomatic. Try to get access to hand sanitizer and use this throughout the day. If you have a preexisting condition that makes you vulnerable to infection, let workers know.

Accessing the City’s COVID-19 Self-Isolation Sites

The City of Hamilton is converting two recreational centres into Self Isolation Sites for people experiencing homelessness who test positive for COVID-19.

You will likely need a referral to access these sites.

If you are involved with social services or the shelter system and you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they should arrange for you to be tested on site. If you are positive for COVID-19, you will likely be transported by paramedics to the Self Isolation Centre where you will be monitored and cared for.

If you are not involved with the shelter system or social services and you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should get in touch with Shelter Health or your doctor to arrange for testing and for further advice. Try your best to limit how many people you come in contact with while you are awaiting assistance.


FOOD RESOURCES


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCES

Remember:

  • You are not to blame
  • You are not responsible for the domestic abuse and/or sexual violence you have experienced and you are not responsible for your abuser’s behaviour
  • Your safety is what is most important
  • You are not alone

The following agencies are still offering support:

Inasmuch House
Crisis Line: 905-529-8600 (24/7)

For single women and women with children fleeing domestic abuse and violence.

Services:

  • Emergency shelter
  • Safety planning
  • Housing support
  • Counselling
  • Legal advocacy

Interval House

Crisis Line: 905-387-8881 (24/7)

For single women and women with children fleeing domestic abuse and violence.

Services:

  • Emergency shelter
  • Safety planning
  • Housing support
  • Counselling
  • Legal advocacy (Momentarily paused due to short staffing during COVID-19)

Native Women’s Centre

Crisis Line: 905-664-1114 (24/7)

For all single women and women with children dealing with domestic abuse, homelessness, or conflict with the law, including access to resources specific to Indigenous women

Services:

  • Emergency shelter
  • Emergency transportation to shelter
  • Safety planning
  • Counselling
  • Referrals for legal, medical, financial, and housing supports

Martha House

Crisis Line: 905-523-6277 (24/7)

For single women and women with children who are homeless and/or fleeing domestic abuse and violence.

Services:

  • Emergency shelter
  • Emergency transportation to shelter
  • Safety planning
  • Referrals for legal, medical, financial, housing supports
  • Counselling 9at very low capacity during COVID-19 crisis)

Mary’s Place

Crisis Line: 905-523-6277 (24/7)

For single adult women (18 and older), who are dealing with homelessness, mental illness, poverty, and violence.

Services:

  • Emergency shelter
  • Safety planning
  • Referrals for medical, legal, and other community services
  • Housing support

SACHA – Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton

Crisis Support Line: 905-525-4162

Services:

  • Free, non-judgemental support services for survivors of sexual assault regardless of gender

SUBSTANCE USERS

Minimize the need to share your supplies when you can.
Avoid sharing e-cigarrettes, cigarettes, pipes, bongs/ joints, nasal tubes (like straws). If you have to share, wipe down the mouthpiece with an alcohol swab. Dispose of any used devices carefully.

Prepare your drugs yourself.
Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, make sure you get between your fingers, under your nails, and your fingertips. Wipe down your surfaces before and after use with microbial wipes, alcohol (at least 70%), or bleach. If you can’t prepare your own drugs, stay with the person who is preparing them, tell them to wash their hands before and after.

Plan and prepare for overdose.
Emergency services might be stretched in a Covid-19 outbreak, and slow to respond to 911 calls. If you are alone, try to use less to avoid overdose. If you are using with others, make an OD plan. Store a breathing mask for use in case rescue breathing is needed.

*Naloxone is currently limited to 2 per indivudal per day

*from the Harm Reduction Coalition

Where to get Harm Reduction supplies
The Aids Network
The Aids Network office is currently closed but the van program is still operational. The van will continue to operate from 7pm – 11pm every night and on Monday- Friday from 9am- 11:30am, as well as 2:30pm – 5:30pm. Text or call (905) 317-9966, services are not booked through the website. Click here for a list of available harm reduction supplies.

How to Continue Getting Methadone/ Suboxone Scripts Filled while Self-Isolating
Pharmacists are working to take prescriptions verbally and harm reduction organizers are advocating to change the methadone process at this time.


SEX WORKERS

Avoid in person Sex Work when possible.
Text, call, or cam your sessions when and if you can.

If you are not able to avoid in person sex work because of privacy concerns or no access to technology and resources, practice harm reduction:

Stay home and do not work if you have COVID-19 symptoms or if you have traveled outside of the country.

Do not hug or kiss colleagues
Decline clients who gave cold symptoms, who have been exposed to anyone with symptoms, have had exposure to anyone who has texted positive for COVID-19, or who have recently travelled (if you can)
Wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer between clients, when you come in from outside, change locations, or when you touch money
Tell clients to wash their hands and face with soap and water before contact
Carry hand sanitizer with you and ensure clients use it
Avoid kissing, saliva exchange, mouth contact on skin, as well as putting objects into your mouth (including your fingers) that have touched the client
Offer alternative services instead of kissing and direct contact
Use condoms, dental dams, and gloves
After an appointment, disinfect work surfaces and anything that was used
Avoid sharing dishes and cutlery

* from Butterfly & Maggie’s: Toronto Sex Worker’s Action Project


EMERGENCY MEASURES IN ONTARIO

On March 17th, 2020 the Government of Ontario declared a state of emergency under s. 7.0.1(1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, [1] in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Below are some resources for understanding the Act and your rights during the COVID-19 outbreak.

COVID-19 and Emergency Measures in Ontario: Everything you need to know (resource compiled by The Black Legal Action Centre in Toronto)