Equality and Justice
For People With Disabilities

Financial Assistance for Persons with Disabilities during the COVID-19 Outbreak

Published by on May 13, 2020

Financial Assistance for Persons with Disabilities during the COVID-19 Outbreak

Justine Wong, University of Ottawa Law Student

Current as of May 13, 2020. Please note that due to the evolving COVID-19 situation, information in this article may be subject to change. For further updates, please consult the official Government of Canada and Government of Ontario weblinks provided below.

Please note that this article should not be taken as legal advice.

This article provides a brief survey of financial assistance for Ontarians with disabilities who are in need and/or may be facing additional costs due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

From aiding low-income seniors, post-secondary students with a permanent disability, to those already on social assistance, and those without, it is important to be aware of the financial resources made available by the federal and provincial governments during this exceptional time.

Are you a low-income senior who receives Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments?

GAINS payments will be doubled automatically and issued for six months. Single individuals are eligible for up to $166 monthly and couples can receive up to $332 per month. The first payment began on April 24, 2020.

The federal government also recently announced that seniors who qualify for both the Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Support (GIS) programs will receive a one-time, tax-free payment of $500. The amount reflects the $300 available to seniors only eligible for the OAS program and the $200 available to seniors under the GIS program. The payment will be applied automatically.

Are you a student with a disability attending post-secondary school in Fall 2020?

The federal government will issue $2,000 per month to students with permanent disabilities who apply and qualify for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). Graduates who ended their studies at a recognized post-secondary institution in December 2019 or later and Canadian students studying abroad are also eligible. The benefit is meant to support applicants who are unable to find work due to COVID-19 or who are working but are being paid no more than $1,000 per month before taxes. Applicants must state that they are seeking work when they apply.

Successful applicants will receive payments in four-week installments for up to four months from May to August 2020. Students can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) starting on Friday, May 15, 2020 at 6 AM Eastern time and must reapply for subsequent 4-week periods before September 30, 2020. Applicants are advised to register for a “CRA MyAccount” before applications open on May 15. To set up an account, click here.

To apply starting May 15, call 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041 (toll-free) or apply online by clicking here.

Bill C-15: An Act respecting Canada emergency student benefits (coronavirus 2019) recently received Royal Assent on May 1, 2020 and enables the federal government to implement the CESB.

Are you already receiving social assistance through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) and have you involuntarily stopped working or had your hours reduced due to COVID-19?

You may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB offers $2,000 monthly for up to four 4-week periods (16 weeks). Applicants must reapply for subsequent 4-week periods. Applicants must be Canadian residents over 15 years old and have earned at least $5,000 before taxes in the last 12 months or in 2019 from employment, self-employment, or government benefits for maternity or paternity leave. Applicants also must not expect to earn over $1,000 in employment income for at least 14 days in a row during the first 4-week period of assistance they apply for. When applying for subsequent 4-week periods, no more than $1,000 can be earned for the entire 4-week benefit period of the new claim.

The Province will partially exempt CERB income for those who were already receiving assistance from OW prior to March 1, 2020 and for all ODSP applicants and recipients. The exemption covers the first $200 a month from the CERB. After that first $200, the Province takes away 50 cents of every dollar the CERB issues in a month. Usually, this partial exemption will result in social assistance payments being reduced by $900 a month. Eligible recipients will likely keep the remaining difference in addition to the $2,000 monthly payment by the CERB. ODSP health benefits will not be affected. By contrast, CERB payments will be deducted dollar-for-dollar when determining the OW eligibility of new OW applicants and recipients who received their assistance on or after March 1, 2020.

Applicants can apply for the CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada but not both. To determine which route is best for you, click here.

Are you already receiving social assistance through the ODSP or OW and do you require additional emergency assistance?

If you are facing additional costs related to the COVID-19 outbreak and are not receiving the CERB, you may qualify for an emergency benefit through your current social assistance provider. These funds may be used for various needs due to COVID-19, like personal protective equipment for hospital visits, cleaning supplies if you are caring for an affected family member, transportation, food, or clothing. Recipients of ODSP or OW receive the same benefit: up to $100 per month for single individuals and up to $200 monthly for families until July. Families with a youth under 18 years or a family member receiving the CERB may still be eligible. The benefit will be issued on a case-by-case basis and potential recipients should have details of their additional costs ready when accessing their benefits. Eligible recipients who received the emergency benefit in March/April and who qualify will automatically receive the May, June, and July installments.

ODSP and OW recipients can access emergency benefits by contacting:

ODSP – at 1-888-444-2412 (phone) or ODSP.EmergencyBenefit@ontario.ca (email); or

OW – at your local office.

Are you in urgent, short-term financial need due to a crisis and not already receiving assistance from the ODSP or OW?

If you do not have enough funds for food and shelter because of an emergency due to COVID-19, you can apply for emergency assistance online through the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Emergencies include being affected by COVID-19, being evicted from your home, leaving an abusive relationship, and being in a situation where you are worried about your safety.

The amount of payment issued will depend on your specific situation. For example, you may receive $733 a month for food and shelter, but more if you have children. If you need more than a month’s worth of support, you can apply directly for Ontario Works online or by calling your local office.

Need further assistance?

The links below may provide further information:

Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS)


Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) 


Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) 


Ontario Works (OW)


Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

Government of Canada (GC)