COVID-19: Updates on Ontario Social Benefits and Emergency Assistance

Prepared by: Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
(Adapted from “Connecting Ottawa” March 25 brochure)
Current as of: April 20, 2020

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1.        Ontario Works (OW)

In response to COVID-19, the Ontario government has made the following changes:

  • Payments will no longer be suspended due to a recipient’s failure to report income
  • Recipients do not have to provide written documentation
  • Eligibility verification process reviews are on hold.
  • Recipients can access additional discretionary benefits by contacting their caseworkers.

You can apply for OW if:

  • You are a resident of Ontario AND
  • You are in financial need.

A single person on OW receives $733 per month. Most income is generally deducted from OW.

2.        Emergency Assistance

In response to COVID-19, the Ontario government has announced that:

  • Access to Emergency Assistance is available for those who do not qualify for federal assistance (EI and other emergency benefits).
  • Emergency Assistance will be available for up to 48 days at a time (up from 16 days).
  • Families and individuals affected by COVID-19 can apply for Emergency Assistance more often than once every six months.

You can apply for Emergency Assistance if:

  • You are a low-income family or individual AND
  • You are not already receiving OW or ODSP or federal assistance (EI) AND
  • You are not a tourist or a visitor AND
  • You face an emergency situation where you cannot meet basic needs or shelter expenses.

The amount of assistance is up to the discretion of an administrator, and it may include an amount for basic needs, shelter, and benefits. You can apply for OW and Emergency Assistance online:

3.       Social Assistance (ON) Relationship with CERB

  • On April 20, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced the following with respect to those receiving OW and ODSP payments:
    • Recipients as of March 1, 2020: CERB payments will be treated as partially exempt, as if they were employment income
      • $200 flat rate exemption + 50% for each additional dollar
    • New OW applicants granted on or after 1 March 2020: CERB payments will not be exemptfor purposes of determining eligibility
      • However, no overpayments should be created for people retroactively reassessed as ineligible

For most updated information, please see our website:
For legal advice, please call the clinic at 416-971-9674

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