Changes to Ontario's Emergency Assistance Program in Response to COVID-19

Published on March 23, 2020


March 23, 2020

Vulnerable Ontarians, including those who live in poverty, are homeless or unemployed, face even more significant impacts as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ontario is providing $200 million in social services relief funding to help protect the health and safety of these vulnerable populations.

Emergency Assistance

Ontario's investment will provide additional resources directly to individuals and families in financial crisis. This includes those who are not able to access federal assistance to cover needs such as food costs, rent, medicine and other essential services during this time.

Ontario is expanding access to existing Emergency Assistance under the current provisions of Ontario Works. This is available to people with limited income, assets or credit who are in a crisis or an emergency situation.

Ontario is providing additional resources and expanding access to Emergency Assistance for those facing a COVID-19 related financial emergency by:

  • Suspending the rule that limits emergencyassistance provision to only once in a six-month period for individuals and families affected by COVID-19; and
  • Allowing people to receive emergency assistance for longer (48 days) without submitting a full Ontario Works application.

Those who are already on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), tourists and visitors are not eligible. Individuals can apply for this assistance online at or through local Ontario Works offices. 

Support for Current Social Assistance Clients

The government is making additional resources available to enable Ontario Works administrators to provide discretionary benefits to those currently in receipt of social assistance. This funding can be used to meet a broad range of needs ― including cleaning supplies, transportation, food or clothing ― that individuals and families may be experiencing due to COVID-19.

Individuals can access benefits through the Ontario Works program through online applications such as MyBenefits, contacting their Ontario Works caseworker or online at ODSP recipients are also eligible to receive these benefits and can contact their ODSP caseworker for additional information.

Support of Workplace Health and Safety

To protect the health and safety of frontline staff and clients, and to limit the spread of the virus, the ministry is modifying certain social assistance program requirements on a temporary basis, and is:

  • Reducing the need for in-person contact by authorizing risk-based approaches to eligibility determination and other verification requirements, including deferral of visual verification requirements of original documents and allowing for the use of email or alternative methods to submit reports or documents. This documentation may be requested at a later date.
  • Helping to reduce the burden on program staff by modifying certain program requirements - including no longer suspending clients who do not report income and suspending Eligibility Verification Process reviews - to enable deployment of resources to priority activities.
  • Helping to reduce the burden on the health care system by enabling program staff to approve extensions to Special Diet Allowance, Mandatory Special Necessities benefits and medical transportation/supplies without endorsement from a health professional.

Municipal and Service Delivery Partners

In addition to families and individuals, municipalities and other organizations that provide social services will be eligible to receive this funding to support their response to COVID-19. Shelters, food banks, charities and non-profits will have immediate access to flexible funding to help them cope with growing demands and extraordinary circumstances.

Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) and District Social Services Administration Boards (DSAABs) will be responsible for allocating funding, based on local priorities. Funding will also be made available to organizations delivering services to vulnerable First Nations individuals and families. Further details will be available shortly.