Financial Supports

>>Summary List of COVID-19 Public Health Orders and Government Announcements
>>Official BC Government Covid-19 Website

Below you will find a summary of financial supports that are available to support people and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. New information is also issued as a bulletin when new public health orders are issued. Subscribe to have them automatically delivered to your inbox.

New and updated information is highlighted. (Last Update: March 31, 2020)

Businesses (General) – Businesses (Sector) – Housing – Income (Workforce) – Income Supplements –  Misc Supports – Other

 

HOUSING
Support Description How to Access
⚡ BC Hydro Bill deferral, payment plans, as well as crisis funding is available. Call 1-800-BC-HYDRO or apply online.
🏦 Freeze on rental rates No rent increases are allowed in BC, effective April 1. No action needed. Contact RTB with questions.
🏦 BC Temporary Rental Supplement (BC-TRS) Provides up to $500/month towards rent, paid directly to landlords. Applications open mid-April. More info here.
🏘️ Mortgages (CMHC-insured) Mortgage payment deferrals available for CMHC-insured loans. 🍁Check with your lender.
🏘️ Mortgages (non-CMHC) Check with your lender about payment deferral options. 🍁Check with your lender.
🛏️ Emergency Housing Existing shelters still active and additional emergency options may be available. Call 2-1-1  or search online.
⚠️ See more re: Housing.

 

PERSONAL INCOME – WORKFORCE
Support Description How to Access
💵 Employment Insurance (EI) Existing EI benefit continues to be available. Provides up to $573/week to people who have lost income. 🍁Apply online.
💵 EI Sickness Benefit One-week waiting period has been waived. 🍁Call 1-833-381-2725 or apply online.
💵 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) Provides $2000/month to workers who lose income due to COVID-19, including contractors and self-employed people.
(Note: Previous description implied only those who do not qualify for EI are eligible for CERB. However, CERB may actually take the place of EI for new applicants when available. In the meantime, those who qualify for EI should continue to submit for EI, as it is a benefit that lasts up to 45 weeks and can continue after the CERB benefit ends on Oct 3.)
🍁Applications open on April 6. Get ready to apply by ensuring you are registered for My Account with the CRA and have set up direct deposit. More info here.
💵 BC Emergency Benefit One-time additional tax-free payment of $1000 to those on EI or CERB. Check back for application instructions.
⚠️ See more re: Labour & Industry.

 

INCOME SUPPLEMENTS FOR PEOPLE
Support Description How to Access
💵 GST-credit One-time boost of up to $600 per eligible couple, $400 for eligible individuals in May. 🍁Benefit is paid out according to your income tax return. More info here.
💵 Climate Action Tax Credit One-time boost of up to $564 for eligible families of 4 and $218 for eligible individuals in an enhanced payment in July. Children under 18 years old must be registered for the CCB to qualify. No other action is needed; benefit is paid out according to your income tax return. More info here.
👪 Canada Child Benefit (CCB) One-time boost of $300 per child in May. 🍁No action if you are already registered for CCB. Otherwise, apply online.
🤸 Youth in Care Youth in care will not age out of services during the pandemic. Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program payments will continue despite school closures and training interruptions.
🧘 Young Adults Program (AYA) Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program payments will continue to former youth-in-care despite school closures and training interruptions.
💵 Income Assistance Existing Income Assistance program continues to be available for those in need with no other resources. Apply online, by phone at 1-866-866-0800, or visit your local office.
♿ People with Disabilities Existing Disability Assistance program continues to be available. See also full list of additional supports here. Apply online, by phone at 1-866-866-0800, or visit your local office.
👵 Seniors Existing programs continue to be available, including:
—–Old Age Security (OAS): $614/mo (max)
—–Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS): $916/mo (max)
—–Allowance / Allowance for Survivor: $1389/mo (max)
🍁 Eligible seniors are automatically enrolled, but applications can also be submitted online.

 

OTHER FINANCIAL SUPPORTS FOR PEOPLE
Support Description How to Access
🚘 Hospital parking Parking is free of charge at all health authority owned/operated health care sites.
🚗 ICBC Monthly payment deferral for up to 90 days with no penalty. Call 1-800-665-6442 or apply online.
👪 Emergency Child Care Funding Child care providers receiving emergency government funding cannot charge parent fees for any periods of closure or for vacant spaces and must reserve spaces for families, starting April. Check with your provider to see if they are in this program.
🏫 BC Student Loans Six-month interest-free moratorium on repaymentstarting April. Repayment will be paused automatically.
🏫 Canada Student Loans Six-month interest-free moratorium on repaymentstarting April. 🍁Repayment will be paused automatically.
🚌 BC Transit & TransLink Fare-free boarding on all buses. Enter through rear of the bus, unless accessible loading is required.
👵 Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) Minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) has been reduced by 25% for 2020. 🍁Learn more here.
✈️ Emergency Travel Loan Emergency loan of $5000 available to Canadians travelling abroad. 🍁Dial +1 613-996-8885 or send an email.
🧾 Income tax return Filing due date is deferred to June 1. Payments owed are deferred until after August 31. 🍁

 

BUSINESSES (GENERAL)
Support Description How to Access
⚡ BC Hydro Bill deferral and payment plans. Call 1-800-BC-HYDRO.
👷 WorkSafeBC Payment deadlines are postponed without penalty. More info.
💵 Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Covers up to 75% of wages for businesses, charities, and non-profits that have lost more than 30% of their revenue. Max subsidy of $847 per week per employee, backdated to March 15. 🍁Check back for application instructions.
💵 Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Financing support for small and medium-sized businesses. Available mid-April.
—–Canada Emergency Business Account: Loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses and not-for-profits, interest-free for one year. A portion may be forgivable. Available mid-April.
—– Loan Guarantee: Operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to SMEs. Available mid-April.
—–Co-Lending Program: Co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million through the program. Available mid-April.
🍁Speak with your financial institution. Learn more.
🧾 Federal income tax Payments owed are deferred until after August 31. 🍁
🧾 BC business taxes Payments for Employer health tax (EHT), provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax, and carbon tax are deferred until after Sept 30. Scheduled April 1 increases to provincial carbon tax and PST are deferred.
🧾 School Tax Cut of 50% for business and industry property classes, to be passed onto tenants on triple-net leases.
🧾 GST/HST Payments owed deferred to June 30. 🍁
🧾 Customs duties & taxes Payments owed deferred to June 30. 🍁
⚠️ See more re: Businesses.
⚠️ Click here: BC Government Small Business Support List

 

BUSINESSES (BY SECTOR)
Support Description How to Access
🧸 Child care sector Emergency funding is available for child care providers that stay open and that close. Learn more.
🎭 Arts & Culture sector $3-million Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement to give operating and eligible project clients a supplement of up to $15,000. Clients will receive a 50% advance on 2020-21 funding. Via BC Arts Council.
📰 Publishing and news sectors Simplified process for Canada Book Fund and Canada Periodical Fund. Journalism Tax Measures. 🍁
🎥 Broadcasting sector CRTC Part I licence fees waived. 🍁
🏞️ Tourism businesses in national parks and historic sites Tourism operators in national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas will have payments on commercial leases and licences of occupation deferred without interest until September 1. 🍁Wait to be contacted by Parks Canada.
🐚 Seafood sector Seafood growers, shellfish farmers, and processors, will have access to the $5 billion Farm Credit Canada loan program. 🍁Via FCC.
🚜 Farmers and Agri-Food sector Access to the $5 billion Farm Credit Canada loan program. 🍁Via FCC.
✈️Airports Rents paid on ground leases waived. 🍁
⚠️ See more re: Businesses.

 

FUNDING BOOSTS TO CHARITIES FOR PROGRAM DELIVERY
Support Description
🥫 Food Banks BC Funding boost to Food Banks British Columbia, who will distribute the money among food banks province wide.
🧒🏼 Kids Help Phone Funding boost to Kids Help Phone, which provides young people with mental health support. 🍁
👵 United Way Canada Funding boost to United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors, such as: Delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports. 🍁

Questions? For items marked “🍁”, contact your local MP. Otherwise, contact your local MLA.

Businesses (General) – Businesses (Sector) – Housing – Income (Workforce) – Income Supplements – Misc Supports – Other

Dear Person Supported/Parent/Caregiver,

We hope that you are all managing to stay well during these very challenging times.  As Dr. Bonnie Henry continues to reiterate, the next 2 weeks are a critical time.  John Horgan recently extended the state of emergency in BC until at least April 14th noting that the next 2 weeks are critically important in the ongoing unprecedented fight against COVID-19.

SACL is monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely, and relying on information from the Provincial Health Services Authority.  At this time we have not been given any direction as to when full services will start again.

I wanted to take this time to give you all an update.  In keeping with efforts to keep the management team well, our Service Managers Joanne Reitan and Karen Hansen are alternating weeks that they work out of the office – one week on site and one week from their homes.  Claudia Pass, the manager of the Cluster Living Program works the majority of her hours out of her home base.

As the safest place for anyone to be right now is at home, the majority of persons supported are self-isolating.  Our managers have arranged with staff to have weekly contact with all persons supported/parents/caregivers.  If an individual does need some emergency supports, please connect with your key worker first.  A manager will have a staff person connect with each individual either by phone, or going to the house and taking the individual for a walk or a hike.

Should you need to speak with a Manager, here is their contact information:

  • Joanne Reitan Extension 1102
  • Karen Hansen Extension 1305
  • Claudia Pass 778-489-3885

If you have any questions – please let me know.  I am at extension 1301.  When we are working from our homes, we will all be checking for messages Monday to Friday.

Sincerely,

Jo-Anne Crawford

Executive Director

The Family Support Institute’s main mandate is to support families any time they need it. Right now we are hosting family support any time of the day/night. We are doing this via teleconference/ZOOM/phone/Facetime/text messaging/email. We are holding ZOOM calls multiple times a day in all regions of the province hosted by our 12 regional staff. They are posted on our website on a calendar, along with any other community partner engagement for families. First, we also created a plain language ZOOM tutorial for anyone who needed it and posted it on our website. Technology is new to some people so we want to help people access how to use online ZOOM engagement so they would not worry, or not come online due to technology as a barrier.

https://familysupportbc.com/wp-content/uploads/Before-joining-a-Zoom-meeting-on-a-computer-or-mobile-device.pdf
https://docs.google.com/document/d/12VQvCsIC33sQSodDw3JL9VOgCAWje_OG6yB8dBtLWCM/edit

Our website also has up to date information managed daily on a COVID-19 page listed here that we send out to families via a bulletin, email, social media.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AILYA46qPN8RJh8DuLh1jfF0xYfAKs_8E6uDpIYuwII/edit

FSI Websites/Resources
FSI has several websites created for families that have been adapted to respond to COVID-19. They are listed below. We have done this due to the fact that families have their “go to” resource so while it may be duplication for us, it is better for families.
Findsupportbc is a provincial database f supports and services available to families based on region, city, age and disability. We keep it current. We have added a COVID-19 category.

https://findsupportbc.com/

MyCommunityBC is a community mapping site that we created in partnership with CLBC to map inclusive places in BC. We have created a category for COVID-19. These are mapped by us and by Community and CLBC councils.

https://findsupportbc.com/map/

Tech Share Facebook Page is site we created in response to family needs identified through our connections with families all over BC. They identified families who have no technology, but are isolated, alone, and wanting to connect. We created a Facebook page where families can donate technology equipment, or identify they are personally in need or know someone in need. There is very detailed information on how to clean the equipment both sanitary-wise and hackware etc. People are encouraged to donate shipping etc. there is also a form where people can submit what they have or what they need and FSI has a staff person who will facilitate matches.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fsitech/

Provincial Family Group
There is a group of Provincial Family organizations meeting daily at 10am, 7 days a week, to share what we are hearing from families across BC, coordinating messaging, brainstorming solutions together, and trying to find supports collectively that we feel will best meet the interest of British Columbian families. It is comprised of family members entirely. It is solution oriented, and collaborative 100% of the time. We are focused on equity of health access (a Health plan for PWD), mental health of families, cross ministry coordination inclusive of family and self-advocate voices, and consistent and timely supports and interventions for families.

 

Dear individuals and families –

Thank you to everyone who joined our teleconference call last week. Due to strong interest, we are pleased to invite you to a second teleconference call.

Please join the Honourable Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction*, Deputy Minister David Galbraith, Dr. Daniele Behn Smith, Deputy Provincial Health Officer, and Community Living CEO Ross Chilton for our latest updates on services and supports. (*Due to a very busy schedule, Minister Simpson is expected to join our call by 12 noon).

When: Thursday, April 2, 2020

Time: 11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

How to call in:
Vancouver – 604-681-0260
Elsewhere – 1-877-353-9184
Participant code: 37568#
Special Instructions:  Due to the large number of participants, please start dialing in at 11:05 a.m.

During this call our speakers will provide an update and respond to as many questions as possible submitted prior to the previous call and received this week.

We look forward to having you join us. For the latest information from CLBC, please visit our COVID-19 web page for individuals and families here.

 

Dear individuals and families –

Please join the Honourable Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, David Galbraith, Deputy Minister, Dr. Danièle Behn Smith, Deputy Provincial Health Officer, and Community Living BC CEO Ross Chilton for an update for individuals and families on services and supports during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

When: Thursday, March 26

Time: 11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

How to call in:
Vancouver – 604-681-0260
Elsewhere – 1-877-353-9184
Participant code: 37568#
Special Instructions:  Due to the large number of participants, please start dialing in at 10:55 a.m.

Community Living BC would like to invite individuals and families to submit your questions in advance by end of day, March 25, to CLBCInfo@gov.bc.ca with the subject line: March 26 Individual and Family Call. This will allow us to answer as many questions as possible on the call. (Due to an expected large number of participants, we regret we will not be able to take questions during the call itself).

We look forward to having you join us. For the latest information from CLBC, please visit our COVID-19 web page for individuals and families here.

March 24, 2020

 

Dear CLBC Service Providers:

Thank you for your ongoing dedication to people with developmental disabilities and their families. We would like to provide further information to help you keep people safe and supported.

Community Inclusion Support:

It is important to recognize that while this is a difficult time for everyone, it is more challenging for some individuals with developmental disabilities to understand and comply with general health guidelines. Also, some individuals you support have other health conditions which make them more vulnerable should they contract the virus. This requires all providers to take additional steps to reduce the risk of the transmission of COVID-19. This is why we are requiring providers to implement timely changes that go beyond some of the measures that would be expected of the general population. This is being done at the explicit direction of the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.

For the vast majority of supported individuals the safest place for them right now is at home. That is why if you haven’t already done so we are requiring you to work with families, home share providers, and other support agencies to quickly transition supports to be provided from or in the individual’s home.

We have already heard that many families and home share providers have agreed to support the individual from home until the crisis has passed. This is greatly appreciated and helps agencies direct support to others in need. We have also heard of agencies working closely to transfer staff that typically work in a day program to the home of the individual. This week the CEO Network and CLBC will host a conference call for providers that are struggling to implement changes. Providers that have successfully adapted their services will share examples of what they have done to transition to home-based support. Details about this call will be provided soon.

Congregation of individuals puts them at increased risk of contracting or spreading the virus. The direction of the Public Health Officer is to not congregate in large groups. Given the additional risks associated with supporting individuals with developmental disabilities CLBC directs organizations to not support in groups of more than five individuals. Remember that smaller is better especially for individuals that can’t manage social distancing or the other personal hygiene directions and/or have underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk should they contract the virus.

As we have indicated in previous communication, CLBC understands and supports agency decisions to flexibly redeploy your staff. If you have any questions we encourage you to contact your CLBC liaison Analyst. We need to work together.

Group Home Support:

We know that families are worried about their family member living in a group home and want to know what is being done to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. We ask that you communicate to families immediately that if they are willing and able to support their family member in their own home, now is the time to take them home. Where possible we ask that you redeploy some staff to support that individual in their family’s home. We are actively looking at how we can offer support to those families that have or will take on additional support responsibility.

Like in long-term cares settings, if an individual in one of the group homes comes down with symptoms of COVID-19 the other individuals will need to be quarantined together for a period of time to reduce the risk of the virus spreading further. At that point a family member will not be able to remove their family member as the individual likely will have been exposed to the virus and the focus will be on containment.

If you haven’t already done so we ask that you also communicate to families that the homes are not open to non-essential visitors at this time. Phone or video calls are an excellent way to keep open the communication during this challenging time.

Support in home sharing:

We are also grateful to the many home sharing providers that have responded by keeping the individual home and providing additional support. We encourage this wherever possible because, as indicated above, many individuals have difficulty understanding what is going on and adapting the way they interact with others.  We understand how taxing that can be for some home sharing providers that have relied on the individual receiving support during the day. Where possible and required we ask that you redeploy supports to the individual’s home. We are actively considering how we can provide additional support to those home sharing providers that have taken on additional responsibility. We will have more communications for home sharing providers in the very near future.

Sincerely yours,

Ross Chilton
CEO, Community Living BC

Dr. Danièle Behn Smith
Deputy Provincial Health Officer – Indigenous Health
Office of the Provincial Health Officer

March 18, 2020

Dear Stakeholder:
We are writing to provide information on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and the evolving outbreak in BC.
As the areas affected by the outbreak changes and we learn more about the virus, we will provide updated public health recommendations. We are now aware that this virus can cause a range of mild to severe symptoms, and it is possible that people will not recognize symptoms that are mild. Given this new information, there are steps that people at risk of COVID-19 can take to reduce the chance of spread to others.

We recognize that as social sector organizations you provide very important services to vulnerable segments of our population who may be at greater risk of COVID-19 such as people who are homeless, street-entrenched, reliant on group care, and/or persons living with other illness or disability. Suspending the important services you provide can cause unintended consequences for clients and other frontline providers.
We recommend that your organization work to adapt the way in which you provide services to minimize transmission of the virus. A risk-informed decision-making for social sector organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic is forthcoming.

Preventing COVID-19
SARS-CoV 2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is spread through respiratory droplets.
The most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
To help reduce your risk of infection:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Using soap and water is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infection. See the attached handwashing poster to post in your organization.
• If a sink is not available, alcohol-based hand rubs (ABHR) can be used to clean your hands as long as they are not visibly soiled. If they are visibly soiled, use a wipe and then ABHR to effectively clean them.
• Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or the crease of your elbow when you sneeze or cough.
• Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
• Do not share food, drinks, utensils, etc.

Advice on Continuity of Service
We do not recommend suspending social services. We encourage social service organizations to continue providing their important services, and consider adapting them as much as possible to support:
• Social distancing (i.e., having space of 2 metres, or two arm lengths, between individuals)
• Hand washing facilities
• Minimum twice daily cleaning of high contact surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, faucet handles, computer keyboards, light switches etc.)
Organizations should consider that they may experience greater than normal absenteeism of staff and volunteers. We advise organizations to identify services that may be postponed or discontinued in order to free up staff and volunteer resources to provide essential services.

Advice for Persons at Higher Risk of Severe COVID-19
Certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing more severe illness:
• Elderly persons
• People with chronic illness and/or weakened immune systems
Anyone at risk of more severe COVID-19 should:
• Practice the things mentioned above – frequent hand-washing, maintain a distance of 2 metres from other people, avoid touching their hands and face, and have frequent disinfecting of high contact surfaces.
• Avoid crowds > 5 people

Advice on Wearing Masks
Masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person’s droplets in.
It may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves. Masks may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (e.g., to adjust the mask).

Advice on Self-Isolation
We now recommend that:
• People returning from travel outside of Canada stay home or self-isolate for 14 days after they return to Canada. They should monitor themselves daily for symptoms (fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing).
• People who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 by laboratory testing should self-isolate for 14 days after their last encounter.Individuals should monitor themselves daily for symptoms (fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing).
• People who have been in close contact with someone who has been showing symptoms (fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing), should monitor themselves daily for symptoms.

Advice for Those Who Have Respiratory Symptoms
For anyone who develops fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing, and can be managed at home (i.e., doesn’t need to go to the hospital), self-isolate for at least 14 days after onset of their symptoms. After 14 days, if their temperature is normal and they feel better, they can return to their routine activities. Coughing may persist for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean they need to continue to self-isolate for more than 14 days.

Advice on Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are frequently touched (e.g., high touch surfaces such as doorknobs, faucet handles, computer keyboards, etc.) will help to prevent the transmission of viruses from person to person through contaminated hands. These surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least two times per day. If household or commercial disinfection products are not readily available, hard surfaces can be cleaned of visible dirt and then disinfected using a mixture of 1-part bleach and 9-parts water.
Organizations should also consider increasing the number of hand wash stations (or alcohol-based sanitizer stations) around the institution, as well as providing tissues and waste receptacles.

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Resources for BC Public Agencies:
Vancouver Coastal Pandemic Response Planning Checklist for Homeless & Housing Services Providers: https://sneezesdiseases.com/assets/uploads/1584050040ueDrQ4uF2STpj0uScxV9XTftm9T8.pdf

Latest Public information about the disease:
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website contains the latest information about the disease, particularly as it relates to the health and well-being of British Columbians. Relevant BCCDC resources and channels include:
• Information for the public: www.bccdc.ca/covid19
• COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool: https://covid19.thrive.health/

BCCDC channels to follow:
• Twitter: @CDCofBC
• RSS feed: http://feeds.phsa.ca/bccdc-news.xml

Other regional, provincial and national resources about the virus:
• Vancouver Coastal Health: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/vancouver-coastal-healthstatement-on-coronavirus
• Fraser Health: https://www.fraserhealth.ca/health-topics-a-to-z/coronavirus#.Xk7Y975KiUk
• Interior Health: Ministry of Health Office of the 4th Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street
Provincial Health Officer
PO Box 9648 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria BC V8W 9P4
Tel: (250) 952-1330
Fax: (250) 952-1570
http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/pho/
https://www.interiorhealth.ca/YourEnvironment/CommunicableDiseaseControl/Pages/Breaking-News-and-Info.aspx
• Island Health: https://www.islandhealth.ca/learn-about-health/diseases-conditions/novelcoronavirus-information
• Northern Health: https://www.northernhealth.ca/health-topics/current-outbreaks
• HealthLink BC: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/coronavirus-covid-19
• Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/publichealth/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

Sincerely,
Bonnie Henry
MD, MPH, FRCPC
Provincial Health Officer

Dear CLBC eligible individuals and families –

I am writing you today about the outbreak of the virus called COVID-19. Our world has changed in the last few weeks. Health experts are giving us daily updates and asking everyone to take steps to help prevent the spread of the disease. CLBC has created a web page here for individuals and families.

First, I want to recognize this is not an easy time. I talk to self advocates each day. They tell me they are confused and scared. They are unsure how to be safe when they go out into their community, and many of the community resources they rely on are closed. They do not want to lose their connections to those they love. We all need to take a bit of time each day to talk to the self advocates we know and ask them how they are doing.

Families are anxious too. I know there is a burden of stress that comes with being a parent of someone who may be vulnerable. I also know that the COVID-19 outbreak poses great complexities for families. I’m sure you have many questions.

I must be honest. While we can answer some questions, we don’t have answers yet to all of them. This is a situation that this generation has not faced before. However, I am very hopeful. CLBC is working with the government and service providers to understand and respond to the challenges. I believe that we can meet them.

Here’s what we are doing:

Our first priority has been to help spread the word about COVID-19, and what people can do to protect themselves. This information is on our web page. If you are sick, call 811 and stay home. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your face and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing. Practice social distancing.

We are also working with our service providers. I understand you may be hearing different things about whether some programs will continue or not. I know our service providers and their staff are working hard and making good decisions to protect individuals, families and staff while continuing to provide essential support.

CLBC has provided guidance we hope will help them think about how to adjust services like day programs to protect individuals with chronic health conditions and prevent the spread of illness. If a program has to change or close, we are asking providers to assess the impact on the individuals and caregivers, and where possible to adjust staffing to assist caregivers by serving individuals in or out of their homes. Providers are really stepping up to this challenge.

What should you do if you or your family member becomes ill? This is a key worry for all of us. If a person has flu like symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing, call 811 to talk to a nurse. You can call 711 if you are deaf and hearing impaired.

I have been talking with the Ministry of Health and Provincial Health Officer in the last few days to ask them to ensure we have access to the care we need in our communities should one of our loved ones become sick.

If you have questions, here are some helpful contacts:

CLBC continues to be open at this time. Our staff will respond to your calls as quickly as they can. You can also send your questions to CLBCInfo@gov.bc.ca at any time.

Thank you for all you are doing to help your family and others during this time. Please continue to let your service providers and CLBC know how we can be helping during these uncertain times. And stay tuned for more updates. Be assured that self advocates, families and support workers are our top priority.

Sincerely,

Ross Chilton
CEO, Community Living BC

Dear CLBC Service Providers –

We continue to hear from many service providers who we know are doing their best to keep individuals, families and staff safe. We are also hearing from families and caregivers that may be impacted by decisions about continuing services. We recognize decisions are not always easy to make and would like to provide further information that may guide you.

The question, “Should service providers continue to provide day services in their current configuration or not in light of COVID-19?” does not have a one-size fits all answer.

The top consideration should be keeping both individuals and staff safe and healthy over the next months. To do our best at this, we need to follow the advice of our public health officials.

CLBC expects that service providers, no matter the service, take the precautions as advised by public health officials and experts to keep people safe. These include ensuring extra cleaning and sanitation of facilities and communicating through messages and posters the advice to stay home if sick, regularly wash hands, do not touch your face, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing and practicing social distancing. Please continue to refer to guidance on the BC Centre for Disease Control web site here.

Wherever possible, services have a duty to assist individuals to understand the situation, what the risks are and what they need to do to protect themselves.

So what are other factors service providers should consider around continuing services?

Health officials have told us today that where possible we should continue social services in a way that minimizes transmission and minimizes pushing the burden to other social services. They have said that supported individuals at higher risk for severe disease and individuals who may have challenges complying with the preventative practices above should try to stay away from crowds or areas of potential transmission.

Many individuals may have chronic health conditions and have health care plans as established by their doctors and other health care professionals who support them. These plans should be followed in combination with broad health messaging.

Where service providers operate services that result in congregation, or people coming together in numbers, it may make sense to alter the service to employ “social distancing” to help keep people safe and prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

In other situations where there is less congregation, once the provider has taken recommended precautions, service may be able to continue operation.

Where a service provider needs to change the delivery of services to reduce congregation and reduce risk to individuals or staff and do their part to prevent transmission by implementing social distancing, CLBC expects the following of service providers:

  • Assess the impact of the change on the individuals being served, as well as on their caregivers – whether they be a family, a home sharing provider or a home provided through staffed residential services. This consideration means communication with all of the impacted caregivers to discuss plans and implications. Consider the impact of the change as well as the impact of not changing services.
  • Redeploy resources to assist caregivers by serving individuals in or out of their homes.  In some instances, caregivers may require minimal supports. In other instances, where individuals require significant supports or where a change may be difficult for them to understand or adapt to, the caregivers may require much more support.
  • If service providers plan to change the configuration of a service to keep people safe and prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, they can discuss any implementation concerns or challenges with their CLBC Analyst.

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to make decisions that will continue to put the ongoing health and well-being of individuals as our top priority.

CLBC is working on a range of other questions and hopes to provide further information soon on topics that include supporting home sharing providers and helping to access medical supplies.

I am also taking the opportunity to attach a pandemic planning checklist which you can access here to support you in your ongoing planning.

Sincerely,

Ross Chilton
CEO
Community Living BC

I know that all of you are actively engaged in planning for the challenges we are facing with respect to COVID-19. Monday morning (March 16th) Karyn Santiago and I were part of the first of what are to become weekly calls of the Social Services Sector Roundtable. Minister Simpson acknowledged that this is a challenging time for everyone and these calls are being organized specifically to review the role of social service organizations throughout this crisis as well as to identify and strategize around the unique issues we face. The concern is how to both meet the needs of the individuals receiving support as well as ensuring that staff stay well. Dr. Daniele Behn Smith from the Public Health Office was also present during this call who advised that there was no need to close services providing the group did not exceed 50 persons and that people must be able to maintain social distancing and frequent handwashing protocols. She also stipulated that disinfecting procedures should be increased as well as decreasing opportunities for community interaction. We are expecting more formal information from the Public Health Office today with respect to community living services but this has not yet been received.

We are also aware that personal protection supplies are generally unavailable. This includes masks, eye shields, gowns and hand sanitizer. It is our understanding that CLBC is working directly with the Ministry of Health to ensure that supplies will be available on an “as required” basis. This does mean that stockpiling is not an option. I have been asked to let you know that if you require supplies you should contact your local CLBC Analyst and identify what you need and the quantity. CLBC will escalate these requests through Health. Again, this should be a basic request for a 2 week supply; not an unlimited quantity. At this point it is unclear whether Health will be able to respond and we will continue to look into other supplier options.

This morning (March 17th) we held a single-item Board call to review the need for a more coordinated approach to the crisis. We are aware that some of our members have already closed Community Inclusion services and are re-deploying staff to ensure that individuals are receiving the support they need. Others are in the process of finalizing plans for closures and moving to essential service levels. Everyone is planning with the intention of keeping everyone as safe as possible and minimizing the risks of further spread of COVID-19. This is a daily evolving situation and we recognize the pressure you are all feeling.

Each of you will need to make decisions for your organization that are best for those you serve, your employees and your community. There will be variation from agency to agency about what is considered an essential service. At this point we are encouraging you to consider the following as you plan:
• Ensure that you are planning within your agency’s capacity.
• Coordinate with other agencies in your community where possible. You may be able to assist each other with sharing resources where that makes sense.
• Communicate with families and caregivers to determine what support they may require if you close services and deploy staff as is possible to ensure these circumstances are addressed.
• Continue to advise your CLBC Analyst of your plans.
• Ensure you have succession plans for all important positions within your agency (i.e. payroll will need to be met).