Help When You Need It: Accessing Emergency Funds in Ontario

Posted on February 20, 2021

After thousands of individuals lost their jobs due to COVID-19, Canada managed to add 246,000 jobs back to its economy by September 2020. However, this was still one million jobs fewer than there were before the pandemic hit.

Despite working hard to rebuild the economy, many are still struggling, looking for emergency funds in Ontario and beyond. You may even be one of those people.

Perhaps you lost your job and are desperately searching for options. Or maybe you were one of the lucky ones who stayed employed, but are still struggling to make ends meet because of certain changes or restrictions.

Whatever circumstance you’ve found yourself in, help is out there. You just need to know where to look. To learn how to find help for you or your loved ones, keep reading.

Where to Find Help and Emergency Funds in Ontario

When you’re having a hard time paying bills, buying groceries, or keeping gas in the car, it’s not always obvious where to go for help. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to cut costs, find help, and stretch your income.

You might start by switching to a more affordable insurance plan. You could also look up local food pantries to help lower grocery costs. Or you may cancel services with recurring payments that you no longer need.

For something like emergency rent assistance, however, you’ll need to find an organization that offers financial aid. Some people have had success in finding monetary help from a nearby church or other nonprofit organization. If you’re confident you’ll have a steady income again soon, you might even have success applying for some of these best online loans.

But to find emergency funds in Ontario quickly, you should consider starting with the following options.

Ontario Works Social Assistance and ODSP

If you don’t have enough money for things like housing and food, you may qualify for social assistance through Ontario Works. If you have a disability and are in financial need, you could also qualify for the Ontario Disability Support Program, or ODSP.

To apply for Ontario Works, you must meet a few eligibility requirements. You must live in Ontario, and not as a visitor or tourist. You also must be 16 years old or older, and you must need help with basic living expenses for yourself or your family. This means not having enough money to cover basic needs for yourself or your immediate family members.

Ontario Works offers two kinds of assistance. First, it helps with essential costs of living, such as food, clothing, and housing. It also covers health and medical benefits.

Second, Ontario Works can help you find and keep a job. It does this by offering job counseling, job-specific training, and even workshops for resume writing. It will also help you get a basic education if you haven’t received one already.

If you’re eligible, you could receive up to $733 per month to provide shelter and basic needs. You will also receive additional amounts for any family members who live with you. In most cases, you will need to participate in employment-related activities to receive financial help, so be prepared to put in some work.

Applying for Ontario Works online takes about a half-hour. You should only submit one application for your entire household. Fill in the application while your family is at home so they can add their information and consent.

You will need to have your family’s information and tax documents handy, as specified on the Ontario Works website.

Applying for the Ontario Disability Support Program

The application process for ODSP is similar, but there are different eligibility requirements. First of all, you must have a disability or be a member of a prescribed class that’s exempt from the disability adjudication process. You must also be in financial need, meaning your family doesn’t have enough money for basic living expenses.

You must also be at least 18 years old to qualify for ODSP assistance. However, if you’re under 18, you can start the application process for ODSP up to six months before your 18th birthday. Otherwise, you will need to look to a different option for getting the assistance your family needs.

Once you qualify financially for ODSP, you will need to have your disability assessed and confirmed by your doctor. The information your doctor provides will be used to decide if you’re medically eligible for assistance.

Although there are more eligibility requirements for ODSP, it also offers better benefits. If you qualify, you can receive up to $1,169 per month for shelter and basic needs. If you have other immediate family members or require special care, you may receive more.

If you have used ODSP in the past, you may be eligible to receive benefits again much faster and more easily through rapid reinstatement.

Whether you have a disability or not, if you lack enough income to meet your basic needs, Ontario Works should be one of the first places you look for help. You can apply for either Ontario Works or ODSP through their website.

If you don’t qualify for either of these social assistance programs, you might be eligible for the option we’ll discuss next.

Ontario Works Emergency Assistance

In March 2020, another Ontario Works program started to gain attention. Called the Emergency Assistance program, it was designed to help people struggling because of COVID-19.

The Ontario Works Emergency Assistance program already existed before the pandemic started, but it was changed so people could apply more than once in a six-month period. It was also expanded so that individuals could receive help for up to 48 days, instead of the previous limit of 16.

Emergency Assistance isn’t available to those already receiving aid through Ontario Works or ODSP. But if you don’t qualify for either of those programs, it just might be the right thing for you.

To qualify for Emergency Assistance, you must live in Ontario and be in a crisis or emergency situation. This could mean being evicted from your home, losing work or income due to COVID-19, or being worried about your personal safety. Even being in an abusive relationship qualifies as an emergency situation.

Emergency assistance can be used to help pay for food, rent and housing, childcare, medicine, and other essential services. The amount of money you receive will depend on your situation.

It’s worth noting that you normally won’t receive more through Emergency Assistance than you would through Ontario Works. Because of this, you might want to apply for Ontario Works first to find out if you’re eligible for more aid.

Once again, you can apply for Emergency Assistance on the Ontario Works website.

211 Helpline

No matter what kind of financial hardship you find yourself in, Ontario Works should have a program that meets your needs. But if you aren’t eligible for the options we discussed here, or you need specific help that Ontario Works doesn’t provide, the 211 helpline might help.

211 is a telephone helpline and website. It provides up-to-date information on community, social, health, and government services in Ontario. From food banks and community meals to employment services and local activities, the 211 helpline keeps Ontario connected.

211 offers information on assistance programs like Ontario Works. But 211 operators will also help you understand those services and explain how to apply. Even if you’re pretty sure one of the Ontario Works programs is right for you, calling 211 may help answer any remaining questions.

To contact 211, dial 2-1-1 on your local landline or cell phone, or visit the 211 website for email and live chat options.

Where to Go From Here

There are several programs for emergency rent assistance Ontario residents can apply for. Or you may qualify for social assistance through ODSP. And if you want to discover other local benefits, activities, and opportunities, the 211 helpline has the answers you need.

As you can see, there are many options open to those seeking help and emergency funds in Ontario. But the path to financial freedom is one you follow your entire life. Use Insurdinary’s helpful resources to see how you can save more money on insurance, credit cards, bank accounts, and more.

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