Below is a collection of The Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 related announcements pertaining the DS Sector.
On March 17, 2020 the Government of Ontario announced that it was declaring a state under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. As part of this, the government made an initial investment of up to $304 million to enhance the province’s response to COVID-19. This included $20 million for residential facilities in developmental services, gender-based services and protective care for children and youth to support:
- additional staffing;
- respite for caregivers impacted by school closures;
- personal protective equipment and supplies and transportation costs to minimize client exposure and to support social distancing; and
- additional cleaning costs.
On March 25, 2020, Finance Minister Rod Phillips delivered an Economic & Fiscal Update delaying the traditional budget for 2020-2021 until November 2020. Included in this update was significant financial support for the Developmental Services sector by providing a $20 million dollar investment. This investment was in addition to the $20 Million previously announced as part of the State of Emergency Funding on March 17, 2020, bringing the total investment to the sector to $40 Million. This funding included the following key investments in response to the COVID‐19 outbreak:
- An additional 4,700 children to be supported through the Special Services at Home program in 2020–21;
- supporting additional staffing;
- respite for caregivers impacted by school closures;
- personal protective equipment and supplies;
- transportation costs to minimize client exposure;
- Covering outbreak‐related costs, including additional cleaning costs, food and shelter; and
- Expanding access to temporary emergency assistance for people in financial need with no access to financial support and simplifying the application process to help people quickly;
On April 4, 2020 the government launched the COVID-19 Residential Relief Fund (CRRF) . The CRRF helps to address financial and service delivery pressures that agencies are feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CRRF funding is to be used as needed to support the health and safety of clients and staff.
The following types of exceptional costs can be covered through CRRF:
- additional staff and compensation
- residential respite for caregivers
- personal protective equipment and supplies
- costs to support social distancing and transportation to minimize client exposure
- additional cleaning costs
On April 4, 2020 the government also announced an Emergency Order for the Developmental Services sector. The order is designed to allow agencies that fall under the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of People with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008 to take “any reasonably necessary measure” to stop the spread of Covid-19 when it comes to staffing. This is in line with existing Emergency Orders for Health Care Providers, Long-Term Care Homes and Retirement Homes. These “reasonably necessary measures” include:
- Changing work assignments and scheduling;
- Deferring or cancelling vacation or other leave;
- Assigning non-bargaining unit staff to perform bargaining unit work;
- Assign or employ extra part-time/temporary staff, contractors or volunteers to perform work;
- Identify possible alternative roles for staff; and
- Authorization to take steps without complying with any provisions of a collective agreement temporarily during the crisis.
In addition, DS agencies are subject to relaxed standards for reporting, documentation, staffing levels, screening and creating alternative residential arrangements while still being required to ensure a safe and secure environment for the people they support.
On April 10th the Government significantly expanded and enhanced Covid-19 testing for several priority groups including the developmental services sector.
On April 17th the government announced the expansion of the list of essential workers eligible to receive emergency child care to include staff working in the developmental services sector.
On April 21st, through a letter to the sector, addressed and clarified the government’s position in regards to draft COVID-19 triage protocol, stating that Ontario Health must make certain that any medical protocols do not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, and that any critical decisions must be left with medical professionals on the front lines.
On April 23rd, Announced the Covid-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People, which focuses on several key areas:
- Enhancing screening of visitors, staff, and residents on sites, as well as restricting non-essential visitors.
- Enhancing testing of symptomatic staff and clients to identify the need for isolation and additional infection control measures on-site.
- Limiting staff from working at more than one congregate care setting during an outbreak
Another section of the Action Plan allows for changes to eligible SSAH and Passport program expenses. These changes allow individuals and families to use their funding for items that will assist with staying home during the pandemic including technology, arts and crafts supplies, books, games and puzzles, fitness equipment, PPE and more. As part of the March 22nd letter from OASIS, the Provincial Network and Community Living Ontario to Minister Smith and the Premier we specifically requested adjustments to SSAH and Passport allocations for the duration of the crisis.
On April 25th the government announced further support for frontline staff during COVID-19 with pandemic pay, which will increase pay for frontline workers, including those in the developmental services sector, by $4 per hour on top of existing hourly wages. In addition, employees working over 100 hours per month would receive lump sum payments of $250 per month for the next four months.