COVID-19 Update, April 6

After another sunny weekend, I can’t thank everyone enough for your continued commitment to staying home, practicing physical distancing, working remotely where possible and only going out for essentials. These actions continue to protect you, your family, friends and all the frontline workers who work in essential services.

Today applications to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)  opened. It temporarily provides about $2,000 a month to eligible recipients. This is a necessary and important step in helping Canadians. You can apply for the CERB here.

I am also acutely aware that for many Ward 13 residents, you either will not qualify for the CERB, or it will be inadequate to meet your needs. I have raised this with Mayor Tory and Minister Morneau’s staff, and today, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the federal government is looking at ways to expand the CERB to cover gig economy workers, and people who have had their hours reduced. I look forward to seeing those improvements and we will continue to work with our federal partners to make sure that everyone who needs financial support gets it during this challenging time.

When I analyzed who was more likely to be excluded from this initial version of the CERB, it became clear to me that to improve the effectiveness of financial and health program interventions, all governments must incorporate an intersectional gender analysis into their preparedness and response efforts. 

Women are more likely than men to have had their employment impacted by COVID-19. Women in the workforce represent 84% of all cashiers, 99% of childcare workers, 72% of food prep and service workers, and 80% of community and social services workers. These are jobs that cannot be done from home, and they have seen the most dramatic reduction in employment.

In a report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Katherine Scott writes, “Women are also on the front lines fighting this crisis. Our primary care and long-term care systems are staffed largely by women. Women represent over 90% of nurses, 75% of respiratory therapists, and 80% of those working in medical labs. Up to 90% of the Personal Support Workers (PSWs) who do the lion share of work in long-term care homes and home care work in the community are women. Over two-thirds of people who clean and disinfect our hospitals, our schools, and our office buildings are women.” 

Our local and federal governments have already committed to eliminating intersectional gender inequities experienced by Torontonians. In the City of Toronto 2020 Budget, we approved the development of a Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto. The federal government has included gender budgeting as a foundational element of their strategy to improve equality in Canada. 

When we get through this - and we will - we need to make sure that the women who led on the frontlines of this pandemic are protected and cared for. That means eliminating the existing gender inequities. It requires robust job programs in industries primarily staffed by women. It means adequate mental health support. It means permanently affordable housing and universally accessible childcare. It means reliable and affordable public transit. 

We will have the opportunity to show our sincere appreciation to these critical workers in the long term by permanently reforming the system that has kept them behind. Let’s promise that we will do right by them, for all the personal sacrifices they have made for us during this global pandemic.

Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you. 

Kristyn


Changes to Essential Businesses: Residential Construction

Many of you have expressed concern about ongoing construction sites across Toronto, and have asked that the City do more to close them and enforce physical distancing between the workers. 

Unfortunately, the decision on whether or not to close construction sites rest directly and exclusively with the Province. Last week, the Provincial Government updated their list of “essential businesses” that would be permitted to continue operating during the pandemic. Their primary focus was construction oriented, establishing further limits as to what construction projects should or should not proceed. It was reported in many places that residential construction was to halt on April 4. This is unfortunately not accurate, which led to some confusion about why construction near them was still occurring.

In brief, the Provincial Government has stated that the following projects are permitted to proceed, as they have deemed them “essential” businesses:

  • Healthcare sector projects; 
  • Critical infrastructure (transit, transportation, energy, justice, etc.);
  • Petrochemical plants and refineries; 
  • Industry required to make Personal Protective Equipment, ventilators, and other equipment and services to combat the COVID-10 Pandemic
  • Residential construction projects where: 
    • a footing permit has been granted for single family, semi-detached and townhomes;
    • an above grade structural permit has been granted for condominiums, mixed use and other buildings, or; 
    • the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work was started before April 4, 2020.

Please see the following link for the full list.

Living in the downtown core often means we can spot a construction crane from our balconies and windows. After all, Toronto has one of the highest levels of residential construction in the world. For those unfamiliar with the construction process, “grade” refers to the ground level or first floor of a building. Therefore, “above grade” construction refers to any building that has received the necessary building permits to build their first floor and above. 

This describes many active development sites in the downtown area, including those in Ward 13. This means that the construction you are seeing is permitted to continue by the Province, as they have listed them an “essential business.” If you are concerned about whether a property has obtained the proper building permits, please call 311 to verify.

It is likely that the list of essential businesses will be revised again by the Province in the near future. I share your concerns that some of the current provincial exemptions remain very broad and put the health of workers and communities at risk.


Community Care in Ward 13 

The month of April is BeADonor Month in Ontario and it feels apt to include Trillium Gift of Life as our community care shoutout today. A single donor can save the lives of up to 8 people through the gift of organ donation and significantly enhance the lives of 75 others through the gift of tissue. I am proud that the City of Toronto is home to some of the best transplant hospitals in the world and I know we can do better.

I encourage everyone to register their consent to donate, and to take a moment to talk to your loved ones about this important, life-saving decision. You can quickly and easily register your consent to donate online at www.BeADonor.Ca.

Please continue to email my office at councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!


Keep Practicing Physical Distance!

As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practicing social distancing. I know it’s challenging, and I thank you for your continued hard work.

Physical Distance

The single best way for Torontonians to support each other right now is to stay home and practise physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 spread. 

Many people have asked for more clarification on when and if you can take walks outside. You can go for a walk if you:

  • have not been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • have not traveled outside of Canada in the past 14 days

Think of your walks as part of the essential trips you have to take, like going grocery shopping, and take the same precautions. If you go out for a walk, do not congregate and always practice physical distancing. When outside, you must keep at least 2 metres apart from others at all times and stay off of closed parks amenities and facilities, or you may be subjected to a fine. 

Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit toronto.ca/covid19.


City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates 

This weekend was an enforcement and education blitz, with over 200 By-Law Enforcement Officers, fanning out across the city in our parks and public spaces. Starting today, the City is installing signage advising of parking restrictions/closures and bylaw enforcement in “hotspot” areas. I know it’s challenging, but please continue to stay home, and when you do leave, please remember to keep practicing physical distancing. I know many of you would like to do more, but remember that by staying home you are already helping our communities. 

Financial Help to Pay Rent

I know many of you have reached out with concerns about paying your rent. I would encourage tenants to reach out to their landlords to discuss their situation – many landlords are developing payment plans for tenants on a case-by-case basis.

The City of Toronto offers a range of financial supports for tenants including:

  • Money for Emergency Housing Needs: Housing Stabilization Fund – Ontario Works or ODSP
  • Interest-Free Loans for Low-Income Households Facing Eviction
  • Grants for Tenants Challenging Rent Hikes, Demolitions or Condo Conversions
  • Rent Reduction for Tenants in Buildings with Reduced Property Taxes
  • Energy-Related Emergency Help for Low-Income Residents
  • Money for Home Energy Conservation Supplies – Ontario Works
  • Other Financial Help to Pay Utility Bills

The City is working on enhancing and expanding financial support to help tenants maintain their homes. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. 

Emergency Food Access for Vulnerable Residents

The City of Toronto is working closely with community and corporate partners to ensure that the food needs of vulnerable Torontonians are being met during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic and implementation of extraordinary measures to slow the spread of the virus, the need for food programs has increased dramatically. The City is working with 211, United Way Greater Toronto, and other Toronto agencies to identify where the greatest needs are and how best to ensure low-income and vulnerable residents continue to have food access. 

The City is working with Second Harvest, Daily Bread Food Bank, North York Harvest Food Bank, Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. This group is focused on identifying ways to keep existing food programs open and to fill the gaps left by the closure of some programs. In addition to working with corporate partners to secure donations, the group is actively working on multiple food access programs including:

Food delivery for seniors

Responding to the Province of Ontario’s recommendation for everyone over age 70 to self-isolate, the City is working with Red Cross and other partners to provide food hamper delivery to seniors and others in need who are unable to leave their homes to access food. Beginning tomorrow, April 7, Red Cross will be accepting calls at 1-833-204-9952 for those who require this service. With support from United Way Greater Toronto, this service is made available for qualifying seniors and others that are in self-isolation and do not have alternative access to food through family, friends, or other food delivery services, and are not receiving assistance from another community food program.

Access to food banks

Four new food banks are now open at Toronto Public Library locations, with another two opening on April 7. The first location opened on March 25 in partnership with the North York Harvest Food Bank. Three opened this past week in partnership with the Daily Bread Food Bank. Eventually, nine locations will be open. The City is also facilitating food banks in Toronto Community Housing buildings for tenants and in specific community centres where possible.

Food for kids

The City is working with student nutrition program partners to repurpose resources to support the Food for Kids program, which is getting grocery gift cards to families of children in need.

Indigenous communities

The City is providing support for the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) to coordinate food access for Indigenous communities facing similar challenges created by the COVID-19 response, including increased access to food and financial support.

Providing equipment to community food programs

The City is providing requested equipment to support community food program operators to help maintain operations and serve residents. To date, the City has provided City fork lift operators to Daily Bread Food Bank to assist with warehouse operations and has trucks and drivers on standby to help transport food.

Connecting resources to those that need them

The City is working to connect offers of free services and other resources, such as free hot meals, food delivery, free spaces, and available equipment to agencies and communities that need them.

Learn more about social supports here

More information on affected City services & facilities here

More updates from the City of Toronto


Province of Ontario Updates

One-time Financial Support for Parents

This afternoon, the government outlined their enhancements to the Support for Families initiative which will offer a one-time payment of $200 per child 0 to 12 years of age, and $250 for those 0-21 years of age with special needs. To access the funds listed above, families can complete a simple online application at Ontario’s Support for Families webpage. For parents who are already receiving direct deposit payments through this program will be automatically eligible for this financial support and do not need to submit a new application. Please see here for the full announcement.

Start of E-learning for Ontario Students

Today marks the start of online learning for students across the province. This shift from in-person to online learning will be a significant adjustment for both parents/caregivers and students. In addition to their curriculum materials, students will have access to mental health resources, including psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers.

The Ministry of Education has outlined the following requirements for e-learning:

  • Kindergarten to Grade 3 — Students will complete five hours of work each week, focusing on literacy and math.
  • Grades 4 to 6 — Five hours of work each week, focusing on literacy, math, science and social studies.
  • Grades 7 to 8 — 10 hours of work each week, focusing on math, literacy, science and social studies.
  • Grades 9 to 12 — Three hours of work per course each week for semestered students, or 1.5 hours per course each week for non-semestered students.

The Ministry is also in the process of ensuring households in need of electronic devices receive the necessary equipment. There will be a continuous review of the e-learning process to ensure the experiences of households are reflected in any changes.

Short-Term Rentals

The Province of Ontario has also temporarily banned Airbnb and other short-term rentals during the coronavirus pandemic. Issued under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the ruling stipulates that, short-term rentals are only permitted for individuals “who are in need of housing during the emergency period.” 

If found breaking the emergency law, individual hosts could face fines up to $100,000 and $10,000,000 for corporations. Motels, hotels and student residences are not affected by this ruling.

More updates from the Province of Ontario


Government of Canada Updates

The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit is now accepting applications. You can apply online or by phone at 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. This service is available 21 hours per day, closed between 3am and 6am for maintenance. The Federal Government announced that more plans were coming for Canadians who work 10 hours a week or less, and for those essential workers who make less than the CERB amount of $2,000 per month. 

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and head of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, stressed again that it is important Canadians #StayHome. Many infected individuals who are infected and transmitting COVID-19 do so before they show symptoms. Some many never show symptoms, but can still transmit the virus. 

A Special Advisory Committee has reviewed guidelines and is suggesting that wearing a non-medical mask in the community if you have no symptoms is another measure you can take to protect others. Wearing a non-medical mask in the community does not mean you can back-off other public health measures.

Further, it is stressed that people do not take supplies of medical masks away from the healthcare workers who need them. Most organizations that deal with residents who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 are finding their available PPE stretched. We must all do our part and work together!

More updates from the Government of Canada


COVID-19 Information and Resources

Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19. 

311 and Access to Information

The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services and social supports. Check here for answers to common questions before contacting the 311 or Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline.

311 is available 24/7 by telephone for essential service inquiries and service requests. Those calling 311 should expect longer than usual wait times as 311 continues to receive a high volume of calls.

  • 311 (within city limits)
  • 416-392-2489 (outside of city limits)
  • 416-338-0889 (TTY)

Please note, email and social media accounts are not being monitored and the 311 Knowledge Base and online service requests are not available.

Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting  the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19.

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms!
Telephone: 1-866-797-0000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY: 416-392-0658
Email: PublicHealth@toronto.ca

 

Phone: 416-392-7903
Constituency Office: 100 Queen St W A5, Toronto, ON, M5H 2N2