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Councillor Josh Matlow | COVID-19 and our Community

Dear Residents,

This a follow-up to my last update to you on the COVID-19 pandemic with recent government announcements and a focus on several of our community's priorities. First of all, I hope this finds you and your family healthy and well. I know that this is an extremely difficult and even surreal experience for us all. But I'm convinced that if we work together, even at a physical distance, we can flatten the curve and save lives.

I'm proud of how so many people have taken the advice of our Public Health experts, and are self-isolating when necessary and practicing social distancing- keeping at least 6 feet apart.  However, there are still some people who haven't gotten the message. Each of us have a choice to make, we can either be part of solution, or be a serious part of the problem. There's no in between.  I’m inspired by the people who are helping keep our society running, such as the grocery clerks and waste collectors. And I’m deeply grateful to our healthcare workers who are making personal sacrifices and risking their lives to save ours. I’ll continue to do everything possible for our physical and mental health, and advocate for your financial viability to make ends meet, so that we can all get through this together. And thank you to so many of you who have been looking out for your neighbours, and doing everything you can to help each other through this challenging time. I really love our community. Sincerely, Josh

How To Protect Yourself and Others:

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Prevention measures include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill

  • Stay home when you are ill

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands

  • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

  • Stay at home and self-isolate when advised to do so or when you’re ill

All Travelers Are Mandated to Self-Isolate for 14-Days:

The Government of Canada has put in place emergency measures that require mandatory 14-day self-isolation for all persons entering Canada, even if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Some provinces and territories may have specific recommendations for certain groups, such as health care workers. These efforts will help contain the outbreak and limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. For more information, please click here

More Immediate Support Needed for Tenants:  Tenants who have lost their income due to COVID – 19 are increasingly worried about being able to pay their rent as April 1st approaches. Unfortunately, no direct supports for renters has been announced yet. Yesterday, in a press conference, Premier Ford stated, "If you can't pay rent, and you're in a crisis, you don't have to pay rent". The Premier also made it clear that if you have a job and are able to pay rent, don't take advantage.  I then wrote to Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs, to seek clarification on the Premier's comment. While I have not received a response, the Minister wrote an oped in the Toronto Sun addressing the issue in which he said that tenants should "speak to your landlord about whether it can be postponed or if other payment arrangements can be agreed to".  While I applaud and appreciate the Provincial Government's initiative to temporarily freeze evictions, that measure alone is insufficient. Arrangements between Landlords and tenants to either not pay rent or receive a discount should not be left to the ad-hoc whims of individual circumstances. The province should step up and ensure that renters are secure in their homes and Landlords are able to meet their financial obligations with a detailed plan that everyone can understand. I asked the Minister two important questions that have not been answered since the Premier's statement to tenants that they don't have to pay rent on April 1st:

  • Will April rent, and subsequent month's rent until the COVID – 19 crisis subsides, be waived or deferred? I am concerned that deferral will only delay financial crises and a resulting spike in homelessness. 

  • Is there a specific program that Landlords can apply for to offset their lost rent?

I will continue pursuing answers to these questions. For further clarification, and to have your voice heard, please email the Minister of Municipal Affairs: minister.mah@ontario.ca Landlords & Condo Boards Urged to Adopt New Health and Safety Measures to Protect Residents from COVID-19: The City of Toronto is urging Landlords and Condo Boards to adopt new health and safety measures to protect residents from COVID-19. Large residential buildings with a high number of units require new practices and a rigorous cleaning routine to prevent viral spread. It's impossible for renters to adopt life-saving hygiene and social distancing practices if, for instance, hand sanitizer isn't accessible and elevators and common areas are crowded. That's why building operators and staff should follow these guidelines to protect residents in vertical communities: •    Alcohol-based hand sanitizer or a hand washing station with soap and water should be placed at all building entrances. •    Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be available in all common areas that remain open, such as laundry rooms. •    Close non-essential common areas such as bathrooms, gyms, playrooms, playgrounds and other high traffic areas. •    Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas, including doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, counters, hand rails, touch screen surfaces and keypads, with common household cleaners and disinfectants. •    Organize the building to accept deliveries of essential goods, like medications, for residents to avoid non-essential trips outside. •    Post signage limiting the number of residents allowed in common areas, including laundry rooms and elevators, to ensure that individuals are able to maintain a two-metre distance. Consider allowing a maximum of three residents at a time in elevators. •    When showing units or suites for sale or lease, practice physical distancing - keep a safe distance of two metres from the resident and wash hands with soap and water, and or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, before and after the visit. Additional information regarding General Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Guidance for Commercial or Residential Buildings can be found here Standing Together with Small Business Owners: I speak with small business owners every day of this crisis. So many of them are financially devastated by this crisis. From shops located on Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Yonge Street, Spadina Avenue, St. Clair Avenue East and West, Oakwood Avenue or along Eglinton Avenue East and West, the challenges and struggles that our local businesses face demonstrates the need for every level of government to step up. This past week, I participated in a round table conference call, hosted by the Yonge & St. Clair BIA, with over 30 merchants to discuss the personal and financial impacts of COVID-19 and helpful ways each of our governments can provide the necessary and immediate support they need. I'm very supportive of the efforts of our Mayor for assembling the Economic Support and Recovery Task Force. This initiative extends the grace period for property tax and utility bills, pledges no layoffs of City employees due to the cancellation of City programs, and establishes a contingency fund to support businesses and affected groups, and more. As of yesterday, the City launched a survey inviting business owners to share how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting their business, and what information or supports they and their employees need. I also believe the Provincial and Federal Governments should create plans that aren’t loans or deferrals, but immediate financial relief to prevent these small business owners, who are seeing little to no revenue coming in now, from being buried in debt that they might never get out of. To learn more about the business supports already announced through our Federal Government's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, I welcome you to click here. I'd like to specifically note that today, Prime Minister Trudeau is increasing the small business wage subsidy to 75 per cent, as opposed to the proposed 10% subsidy, for qualifying businesses. Lastly, to learn more about how our Provincial Government is supporting our local businesses, please click here.  The Toronto Police Service have asked that I share with you a poster with many helpful tips on how to protect your business property. During the challenges of the current pandemic, many businesses have been forced to close for extended periods. This creates opportunity for potential thieves to take advantage and potentially break into your business properties.  If you have any information regarding a criminal matter, please report it directly to the police. You can do so online at: www.torontopolice.on.ca/core or my telephone at 416-808-2222. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477) or online at: www.222tips.com City of Toronto Opens Childcare Facilities for Essential and Critical Service Workers: The City of Toronto has received authorization from the Province of Ontario to open licensed child care centres to provide care for children of essential and critical service workers. An online application system is coming soon. The centres will then open as quickly as possible, following registration. The child care service will be free, funded by the Province of Ontario, for children from infant to age 12, and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The centres will be spread across Toronto in existing City-run child care facilities and be operated and staffed by City of Toronto licenced child care workers. Given physical distancing is not feasible when caring for young children, additional measures will be taken, in consultation with Toronto Public Health and the City’s Occupational Health and Safety program, to maintain a healthy and safe environment. Precautions will include: •    daily screening of children and families prior to admission •    increased cleaning •    reduced group sizes The list of those who qualify as an essential or critical service worker as defined by the province is available at the bottom of this article. For more information, please contact 311 City Closes Playgrounds and Other Park Amenities to Slow Spread of COVID -19: Yesterday, the City of Toronto announced that all City-owned playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor exercise equipment and other parks amenities, as well as parking lots attached to its parks system, will be closed effective immediately, in the City’s continuing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.  While Toronto Public Health has advised that fresh air and exercise is good if you are not ill, and if so, you should stay home, it has been observed that individuals are using parks and their amenities to congregate. The public has also shared its concerns about how parks amenities are supporting that congregation. The City is urging all residents, who are not performing essential or critical services, to stay home.  Signage will be erected across Toronto’s parks amenities to advise of closures, including playgrounds. Where fencing or gates exists, they will be locked. Unfenced playground structures will be signed and taped off. Parks green spaces will remain accessible, but all amenities within City parks will be closed. The Province Orders the Mandatory Closure of All Non-Essential Workplaces to Fight Spread of COVID-19 To further contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario Government has ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces. This closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this order as the situation evolves. A full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open can be found here. If you have questions about what will be open or impacts to your business or employment, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659. City of Toronto Municipal Licensing & Standards is now participating in a joint operation with Toronto Public Health and the Toronto Police Service to ensure non-essential businesses are complying with the order to close. Compliance audits will occur 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Non-essential businesses found to be open may be provided with a Notice under the Provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. If you have urgent questions about whether a business that is continuing to operate is essential, call 311. City Taking Action to Support Torontonians Experiencing Homelessness: The City of Toronto has, over the past weeks, rapidly mobilized and implemented a plan in response to the risk COVID-19 presents to clients of the city’s network of shelters, respites, and drop-ins.  Shelter, Support & Housing Administration (SSHA) recognizes that physical distancing is a priority. That's why SSHA has opened nine new facilities with more than 350 spaces to create further physical distancing for clients from shelters, 24-respites and 24-hour drop-ins. An additional facility is preparing to open with more space ready to be activated as needed. In some cases, community and recreation centres closed as part of the City’s suspension of non-essential services are reopening to support distancing efforts. The City has also opened space at hotel and motel sites and is exploring other opportunities. A new Rapid Housing Access Initiative is helping to prioritize access to housing for existing shelter clients in Toronto Community Housing. Fifteen households have been matched with housing and will be moving in this week. An additional 50 units have been identified for move-in in the coming weeks. Clients are being referred through the Coordinated Access system and provided with supports to be successful in achieving housing stability. Units are being prioritized for particularly vulnerable individuals, including seniors.  Enhanced screening by Central Intake is ongoing. Stronger infection, prevention and control (IPAC) and cleaning measures continue at City and partner shelters. The City has provided additional funding for this increase in preventative measures, purchasing specialized cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), and helping to increase physical distancing (i.e. installation of curtains). There is now a focus on implementing a PPE distribution plan to ensure this critical equipment is available to clients and staff.  SSHA has also issued broad direction today to over 200 social and affordable housing providers responsible for over 33,000 units reinforcing that the housing stability of residents is a top priority. Housing providers have been directed to be flexible, exercise discretion, and to work with households whose employment-related income is affected by the current emergency. If you or someone you know needs street outreach, call 311 or Central Intake at 416-338-4766.

Accessing Support through Federal & Provincial Government Benefits:

The COVID-19 pandemic will have an economic impact on everyone's livelihood. That is why, I put together a helpful Q+A below to assist you in navigating through the Federal and Provincial Government benefits.

Did you pay into EI, and have worked at least 700 hours in the last 52 weeks, but have been laid off due to work closures? You can apply for regular EI benefits through the Federal government. Beginning in April, even if you are EI-eligible, you can apply for the Federal Government's Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CREB) to ensure timely access to funds, as Canada’s EI system is currently overloaded with applications.

If this does not apply to you, you may still apply for the Provincial Government's Emergency Assistance Program through Ontario Works and the Federal Government's Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CREB)

Did you pay into EI and have worked at least 700 hours in the last 52 weeks, but are unable to work because you are ill or in self-quarantine? You can apply for EI sickness benefits through the Federal government.

If this does not apply to you, you may still apply for the Federal Government's Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CREB)

Did you pay into EI and have worked at least 700 hours in the last 52 weeks, but are unable to work because of school closures? You can apply for regular EI benefits through the Federal government.

If this does not apply to you, you may still apply for the Federal Government's Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CREB)

Accessing Support through Municipal Benefits: The COVID-19 pandemic will have an economic impact on everyone's livelihood. That is why, the City of Toronto has identified a list of municipal resources that can be used to help minimize those impacts and help get you back on your feet. Click here to learn more.

Help for Canadians Outside of Canada: If you or a family member and/or friend are currently travelling outside of Canada and require information on how to get home, please click here. The Federal Government has put a number of plans in place to assist you. 

Seeking Help: Grocery Delivery Assistance, Food Banks and More:

UHN OpenLab's Friendly Neighbour Hotline:

University Health Network’s OpenLab is helping vulnerable seniors—the group most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic—by mobilizing volunteers to deliver groceries and other household essentials. The service gives priority to seniors living in low-income housing.

Due to the need for social distancing, many seniors face challenges with picking up essentials like groceries. These challenges are made worse by the new reality of having to wait in long lines at some stores, which may not be possible for frail seniors, and which brings a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Many seniors, particularly those with low-income, do not have digital access or are unable to go online or afford the added fees for delivery services.

Since this initiative was first announced on March 13, 2020, close to 600 volunteers have stepped forward to offer assistance to the thousands of seniors living in low-income housing across the city. Together, we operate the Friendly Neighbour Hotline, a single phone number seniors living in low-income housing in Toronto can call, connected to a network of volunteers throughout the city who can help with picking up groceries and household essentials during this difficult time.

Volunteers are ordinary Torontonians who want to help. All volunteers have been vetted. Vetting includes a review of government-issued ID (e.g. driver’s license, passport) and two references, one of which must be from work, school or another volunteer organization. Those who have passed the vetting process attend mandatory online training before they can assist vulnerable seniors.

The UHN OpenLab team has established the processes and procedures of the operation, and consulted with City officials, collaborators, and seniors themselves to ensure a coordinated, effective and safe response. The team has long-standing relationships and projects looking at creative ways to support seniors to live independently in Toronto’s vertical communities. This has allowed UHN OpenLab to get organized very quickly, and to go live with the service in just a week.

The Friendly Neighbour Hotline went live on Monday, March 23. Currently, it is only serving Toronto seniors who live in low-income housing. The toll-free Hotline is available in 180 languages.

1-855-581-9580 SPRINT Senior Care

SPRINT began caring for seniors and enabling seniors to care for themselves in 1983. They continue to do so today as an accredited, not-for-profit community support service agency in Toronto by offering a wide range of practical and low-cost services to seniors and their caregivers. Due to COVID-19, there have been a number of program and service changes. Please click here to learn more.

If you're a senior and interested in grocery delivery, the Meals on Wheels food service or security and wellness checks, please call 416-481-0069 ext. 1225 or review this flyer. The Stop's COVID-19 Plan:

We’re at a critical time for the containment of COVID–19 (Coronavirus).

The Stop Community Food Centre will be shifting its resources away from community programming and towards emergency food access services starting Monday, March 16.

Our first and foremost priority is to protect the health and well-being of all Stop community members, staff, and volunteers.

We will continue to provide essential food access services to our community in an adjusted form at our main location at 1884 Davenport Road:

• The Stop’s Food Bank will run Mondays and Fridays, 12pm-3pm.

• The Drop-in will no longer serve seated meals. Instead, we will serve takeaway meals on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 9am-10am for breakfast, 12pm-1pm for lunch

• The Stop’s Community Advocacy Office will no longer hold in-person office hours, but Community Advocates are able to provide information, support, and referrals via phone. Monday-Friday 10am-2pm (416) 652-7867 x243

Please note: the following Stop programs and services are suspended until further notice:

• Healthy Beginnings (general program, Food Bank still open) • Community Kitchens • The Stop’s Wychwood Open Door • Income Tax Clinic • The Stop’s Urban Agriculture programming, including Youth Programs and the Mashkikii;aki’ing Medicine Wheel Garden • The Stop’s Farmers’ Market

If you are in need of immediate food access and are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus, or have come in contact with someone with symptoms, please do not visit The Stop. Instead, please ask a friend or family member to do so for you.

Questions? Please contact our general line: 416-652-7867, or email general@thestop.org.

If you would like to support our work, monetary donations are the most efficient way. They allow us to purchase the exact items we need on short notice. We also have purchasing relationships with farmers, stores, and suppliers, so we can buy items at a lower price than retail customers. You can make a donation here.

If you’d prefer to donate items, that’s great too! Currently, we’re seeking baby supplies (wipes, diapers, and formula. Size 3-4 are our most requested diaper sizes, but we would take anything!) unused personal care products (like hand sanitizer, shampoo, menstrual products, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, disposable razors, etc) and clean takeout containers with lids. These can be dropped off at 1884 Davenport Road, Monday-Friday 9am-11am and 1pm-3pm.

We all must do our part to contain any spread and mitigate the effects of Coronavirus—both physically and mentally—on our staff, volunteers, and community members.

To keep our workplace healthy throughout this period, our staff and volunteers are following stringent precautionary measures such as frequent hand washing, continually sterilizing our work environments, use of rubber gloves, and social distancing. The Stop is also providing extended, paid sick days and work-from-home arrangements to our employees upon request, no questions asked. Good Neighbour Project

Are you someone in isolation, elderly, a single parent or person living with a disability that requires delivery assistance for supplies, and groceries with no one to help? A task force of volunteers with the Good Neighbour Project are on standby to offer you assistance. Please call 647-873-2230 between 8:00am-8:00pm daily or visit their website here.

Meals to Go at St. Michael's & All Angels Church Between 11:00pm-12:00pm daily, St. Michael's & All Angels Church (611 St. Clair Ave. W.) will be offering meals to go as well as operating as a food bank. Please check them out!

211 Toronto

211 Toronto connects people living in the GTA to over 4,000 programs and social services such as financial help, employment services, mental health, home care, housing, shelters, food and childcare. It offers a 24/7 confidential service in 150 languages, including online, text and chat services.

Community Spirit During COVID-19: Ways to Help:

Call to Action: SPRINT Senior Care’s Meals on Wheels

SPRINT Senior Care’s Meals on Wheels (MOW) program is volunteer-based and delivers tasty, nutritious meals directly to seniors’ doors seven days a week, 365 days a year. MOW volunteers also perform security checks when delivering meals, to ensure seniors’ safety.

Volunteers are the foundation of many of SPRINT Senior Care’s services and we could not care for our seniors without support from over 300 volunteers annually. Due to the impact of COVID-19, we anticipate being in need of more volunteers to help us deliver Meals on Wheels.

If you are interesting in finding out more about how you can help, please contact our Volunteer Services and Human Resources Department at 416-481-0669, ext. 8723, or volunteer@sprintseniorcare.org. Visit us at www.sprintseniorcare.org to learn more about our services and programs. Call to Action: Friendly Neighbour Hotline

University Health Network’s OpenLab is helping vulnerable seniors—the group most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic—by mobilizing volunteers to deliver groceries and other household essentials. The service gives priority to seniors living in low-income housing.

Volunteers are ordinary Torontonians who want to help. All volunteers have been vetted. Vetting includes a review of government-issued ID (e.g. driver’s license, passport) and two references, one of which must be from work, school or another volunteer organization. Those who have passed the vetting process attend mandatory online training before they can assist vulnerable seniors.

The UHN OpenLab team has established the processes and procedures of the operation, and consulted with City officials, collaborators, and seniors themselves to ensure a coordinated, effective and safe response. The team has long-standing relationships and projects looking at creative ways to support seniors to live independently in Toronto’s vertical communities. This has allowed UHN OpenLab to get organized very quickly, and to go live with the service in just a week.

The Friendly Neighbour Hotline went live on Monday, March 23. Currently, it is only serving Toronto seniors who live in low-income housing. The toll-free Hotline is available in 180 languages: 1-855-581-9580

To become a volunteer, please complete the Volunteer Intake Form.

Health and social services agencies wishing to collaborate, please download and complete the Letter of Collaboration.

If you would like to make a donation, please visit our fundraising page.

Visit our Twitter page for daily updates.

Call to Action: Bernard Betel Center Needs Volunteers

Our community, along with the entire world, is gripped by the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis is impacting us all. But those who will suffer the most—and face the greatest risks—are the most vulnerable among us. They need us now.

Working with our social service agency partners at the Bernard Betel Centre, we are looking for volunteers to drop off meals to seniors who are homebound as part of the kosher Meals on Wheels campaign. Please connect with our colleague Cheryl Besner cherylb@betelcentre.org or 416.225.2112 ext.127 if you are able to help.

Call to Action: Toronto Bike Brigade:

Concerned cyclists and Dave, The Biking Lawyer are mobilizing people on bikes in Toronto to offer volunteer delivery and support services where safe and medically acceptable to do so. We have over 150 cyclist volunteers in various areas across the city. If your organization would like to post in our group a call for cyclist support or directly email: dave@thebikinglawyer.ca, we can work to assist you.

We can also look at individual support options.

If you are able, have two good wheels, good health and a love for community support please join us!

If You Require Assistance or Information 

My team and I remain actively working. However, our physical offices will be closed until further notice and my staff will be working remotely. In the interim, the best way to connect with us is by email at councillor_matlow@toronto.ca, rather than phone, and we’ll respond to you at our earliest opportunity.

Due to the high volume of correspondence we’re receiving, there may be a delay in our response, but we’ll certainly following up with you. We deeply appreciate your patience.

For any information related to COVID-19, please click here for the Toronto Public Health website to learn more and for important contact information.

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