Another eventful day as we work together to contain and suppress the spread of COVID-19.
I know many of you have taken the important steps of social distancing. These steps you are taking are critical to help protect those among us who are delivering essential services and cannot isolate the same way.
I want to urge everyone not to get discouraged if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise rapidly in the coming days, despite the incredible measures we are all taking.
Because of the incredibly contagious nature of the virus, and the fact that it can take many days to present symptoms, we are likely going to continue to see a rise in cases before we flatten the infection curve.
That doesn't not mean all your hard work and sacrifices aren’t working. It just means that it will take some time for the impact of our collective efforts to be truly felt.
I have been encouraged by the generosity, and acts of kindness that have emerged from this difficult time. Especially because of the uncertainty of the next few days and weeks ahead, I believe it is critical that we acknowledge the good things happening in our community.
In that spirit, I am recognizing acts of Community and Self Care in Ward 13, where a few times a week I will highlight acts of care happening in Ward 13 - Toronto Centre. Please feel free to send us messages and the 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.
Today’s shout-out goes to the amazing people at Paintbox Bistro in Regent Park, who gave away produce to the local community since they're temporarily closing. Like so many others, small business owners have taken a hit due to the loss of goods and sales.
Please continue to look out for each other, wash your hands and stay home if you can. The City’s website will continue to be updated regularly as new information becomes available, and residents are encouraged to check back often for the latest information on programs and services: https://www.toronto.ca/covid19
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Yours in Community,
Government of Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
The emergency aid plan includes:
- A temporary boost to Canada Child Benefit payments, delivering about $2 billion in extra support.
- A new Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 biweekly, up to 15 weeks, to provide income support to workers, including the self-employed, who have to stay home and don't qualify for paid sick leave or employment insurance. The measure could disburse up to $10 billion.
- A new Emergency Support Benefit to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
- A six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments.
- Doubling the homeless care program.
- Extending the tax filing deadline to June 1.
- Allowing taxpayers to defer until after Aug. 31 tax payments that are due after today and before September.
- $305 million for a new Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities.
Other measures include a GST credit for low-income Canadians and special support for the homeless and shelters helping people escaping gender-based violence.
Most of these measures won’t be available until April at the earliest, so I will continue to push for immediate support for residents who need it. Once we see more details on how reidents can access these supports, I will share them with you.
Impacts on City of Toronto Services and Facilities
Yesterday, the City of Toronto announced changes to City services and facilities, which will be implemented on the advice of the Medical Officer of Health.
The health and safety of our employees is of paramount importance to the City and we will continue following the advice of the City's Medical Officer of Health to increase social distancing. Yesterday the City started to scale back and/or modify delivery of all non-essential services until April 5, 2020. Essential and/or critical services will remain operational.
- Emergency response by Toronto Fire Services, Toronto Police Service and Toronto Paramedic Services will not be impacted. Please continue to call 911 in an emergency
- Emergency bylaw enforcement and investigation services continue for emergency orders and in response to unsafe conditions. To make an emergency complaint, residents should call 311 for issues including:
1. No heat
2. No water
3. Boarding of vacant properties
4. Illegal dumping
Preparations and planning for these types of service changes have been underway since lessons learned during SARS. As a city we will continue to base our actions on the best experts and evidence, and will continue working closely with all levels of government to keep our community safe and healthy.
Shelters and Supports for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
As we prepare for further transmission of COVID-19, the City of Toronto is stepping up to support all Torontonians. Nobody will be left behind. No resource will be spared in our effort to protect the most vulnerable.
Today, details were shared of the City of Toronto's plan to ensure the health and safety of our neighbours experiencing homelessness and accessing shelter services. We are taking steps that are the first of their kind in Canada.
The City's plan is a 3-tiered response that is already rolling out. It will continue to evolve and scale up in response to the changing needs of the most vulnerable.
- We have opened a new site, with four more to follow tomorrow, to create space for social distancing within the existing shelter system. We are also working with Toronto Community Housing to identify vacancies for rapid housing.
- We have implemented screening processes for COVID-19 using Toronto Public Health guidelines for those seeking shelter. People who should be assessed will be referred to a provincial assessment centre. People who are being tested for COVID-19 and need shelter will be referred to a special medically-supported isolation service while they await test results, in partnership with Inner City Health Associates. It is the first service of its kind in Canada.
- At this time, nobody accessing shelter services has tested positive for COVID-19. But the City of Toronto is working very hard with our provincial partners to ensure appropriate shelter, with medical support, is available for anyone who might test positive.
The City of Toronto has also provided financial resources to service providers to help cover the costs of additional cleaning and personal protective gear for staff working in shelters. There will be more details shared soon, and we are ready to scale up the response as needed.
Toronto will rise to the test of this critical moment, together. And that means always taking care of the most vulnerable members of our community, and ensuring every single Torontonian remains safe, healthy, and has a place to sleep each night. Nobody will be left behind.
COVID19 Media Roundup
In light of the importance of sharing trusted information, many newspapers have made their coverage of the COVID19 response free. I encourage everyone to stay informed by visiting www.toronto.ca/covid19 directly, and by reading news stories from credible new organizations.
Here are a few stories from the last 24 hours:
- 6 things you can do to stop COVID-19 from spreading, Toronto Star, March 18, 2020
- Trudeau unveils $82B COVID-19 emergency response package for Canadians, businesses, CBC News, March 18, 2020