Federal government joins United Ways across Canada in helping vulnerable seniors

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Photo credit: CBC News

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $9 million investment in United Ways across Canada to support vulnerable seniors.

We welcome this announcement as a recognition of the impact that the global COVID-19 crisis has had on charitable organizations serving the most vulnerable populations across Canada. We are also heartened by the signal that more investments like this will come. As our communities grapple with the effects of COVID-19, it has been difficult to deliver vital services, and these measures will help us continue this important work. 

Isolated seniors are one of the most vulnerable populations even before the context of a global pandemic. Seniors normally rely on community day-programming where they can socialize with others, participate in physical activity, eat well and maintain a connection to their community. 

Seniors are most at risk of contracting and becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19, and day programs have had to close their doors, leaving seniors across our entire region isolated and disconnected. Stuck in their homes, they are afraid for what might happen to them. They are worried about being unable to do anything about it. They feel alone.

By Michael Allen
President and CEO,
United Way East Ontario

“Tough times fall first and hardest on the most vulnerable in our communities."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

We are proud to see the prime minister reference our work to help those in need. Here in Eastern Ontario, seniors-serving organizations, like our partners at the Good Companions seniors’ centre, have had to shift their programming to focus on bringing thousands of ready-cooked-meals to seniors in their homes, and to provide social programming over the telephone to ease seniors’ anxiety.

“In fact, the United Way is already stepping up. Here in Ottawa, they are helping people like you with things like meal delivery.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Today’s investment from the federal government will help us ensure local seniors are not left behind during COVID-19.

But there is much more to be done.

As the physical distancing measures and health effects of COVID-19 continue to impact every facet of our lives, vital social services that support the most vulnerable are important now, more than ever. 

United Way East Ontario supports homeless youth, people living in poverty, isolated seniors and many others who are now at even higher risk of poor outcomes due to COVID-19. Now, we are seeing even more people who are in need because of isolation, mental health challenges, violence at home they can’t escape, or inability to prepare for and maintain self-isolation under their financial circumstances. 

We’re responding as best we can by partnering with local agencies, municipalities, public health authorities and generous donors. Together, we are working to uncover the greatest needs in the community, and organize our resources together to achieve the greatest impact – to help the most vulnerable, who are depending on us. 

At United Way East Ontario, our goal is to:

  • Ensure people have access to life’s essentials, such as food
  • Enable crisis lines and system navigation services to support people through mental health challenges
  • Ensure that while vulnerable people, like seniors, are isolated, they are also supported
  • Ensure that community agencies can continue to do their vital local work
  • Empower volunteers to help address the greatest needs in our community

United Way East Ontario, alongside United Way Centraide Canada and others, have also been been calling on the federal government to create a Community Response Fund to support vulnerable Canadians, and a sector stabilization program to ensure the charities Canadians depend on can survive the current crisis and serve Canadians today, and in the months and years to come.

We are hopeful this much-needed help will arrive in the coming days.

We know residents are struggling at increasing rates with their mental health, many have unmet basic needs, and community agencies and volunteers need support to keep their services running. These are critical areas that would benefit from further federal funding so no one gets left behind. 

During today’s announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also called on Canadians with the means to do so, to continue donating to the charities that resonate with you.

We hope this leadership from the Prime Minister will also inspire the federal government to allow their employees, who have a long history of supporting United Way, to help us address the local needs arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

“I’m asking you to join in and be part of the solution. Please, donate to your favourite organization, or find out how you can volunteer in your community. Even working from home, you can make a real difference in the impact an organization can have. As an individual, a family, a company, think of how you can lend a hand to help others through this tough time.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

We need your help, too, in these unprecedented times.

Watch the full announcement:

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Help the most vulnerable as we respond to COVID-19.