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Canada's emergency relief leaves out those on social assistance

What little support they get during the pandemic is significantly less than what others are expected to get
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The federal government is providing financial relief for Canadians laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but some groups are finding themselves excluded.

Many Canadians are staying at home under the advice of Public Health, with the federal government providing temporary income through Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

However, those living on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) do not qualify, despite being in a position where they need more support during this time.

"Just seems (sighs) odd to me that the government found all kinds of money for helping every adult in Canada, except those who happen to be on ODSP or OW, or the equivalent in other provinces," Cait Glasson said. She is an ODSP recipient living in Waterloo Region and said the money she receives is not what many would remotely consider livable.

Glasson receives $1,160 a month from the government, while her rent on her apartment costs $1,050 per month, only made manageable by having a roommate live with her.

Meanwhile, the CERB is expected to provide $500 a week for up to 16 weeks (or $2,000 per month). The only additional relief Glasson and other ODSP and OW recipients are getting is the increased GST/HST credit payment that others are receiving.

There is an emergency fund that has been set up by the provincial government for people living on ODSP, but it's not much. The Emergency Benefit is a one-time payment of $100 for individuals, and $200 for families. However, it requires people on ODSP contact their caseworkers and justify why they need the money.

Originally, they were offering $50 for individuals, and $75 for families, before it was increased.

Glasson also criticized the lack of communication on the fund's availability, having to learn of its existence through asking NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo about support.

"We're not talking about a huge portion of society here, such that the additional cost would be that much, when compared with the enormous cost that's already being taken on to provide this income to people anyway."

"We could, for a change, be providing a living wage for at least the duration of the coronavirus, just like everybody else is getting."

Glasson said people living on ODSP are more heavily impacted under the pandemic. Those with personal care workers are having difficulties acquiring masks and gloves. Others have existing medical issues, who may not get immediate care due to hospitals shifting their focus to responding to COVID-19. In some cases, people living on ODSP are immunocompromised and are at the most risk. 

She also points to those dealing with mental health issues being significantly impacted during this time. 

The World Health Organization published a report in March which stated those living with disability, may be impacted more significantly by COVID-19. The organization also recommended governments consider short-term financial support during the pandemic.

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