In the latest of the weekly Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Telephone Town Hall series, MNO leadership continued to provide updates highlighting the federal, provincial and local MNO response to the on-going coronavirus pandemic. The April 8 Telephone Town Hall outlined additional COVID-19 Emergency Supports now available for Métis Citizens, and the MNO continues to develop long-term continuity plans for its programs and services. As more data becomes available, the MNO will continue to adapt its response and develop available COVID-19 support programs for Citizens in need.
Reminder on available COVID-19 resources
The MNO strongly encourages Citizens with urgent needs or concerns related to COVID-19 to utilize the new help line via email at COVIDhelp@metisnation.org or by calling the toll free line 1-800-263-4889.
COVID-19 related Fact Sheets are also frequently being updated and are available at the MNO website: www.metisnation.org/covid-19.
Message to our Citizens
While reports on COVID-19 are continuously evolving, the advice from health authorities and leadership at this time remains the same: Physical distancing, practicing proper hygiene and self-isolating are critical in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve. Heightened hygiene measures include both thoroughly washing your hands and any frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, phones, mailboxes, etc.).
Additionally, individuals are encouraged to wear face masks when out for essentials, as wearing a mask both protects those around you from any accidental sneezes/coughs, while also minimizing habits of frequent face touching –another recommended tactic in keeping healthy and safe.
Federal and Provincial Supports
As part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is now accepting applications from those impacted by COVID-19. This cornerstone of federal COVID-19 support provides those who have lost jobs, are sick, quarantined, or are taking care of someone who are sick with up to $2K/month for up to 4 months.
Canada’s Economic Response Plan will also extend support to struggling small businesses and entrepreneurs under the proposed Temporary Wage Subsidy for Small and Medium Businesses. At this time, sources indicate Canada will provide 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. We will continue to monitor and update the fact sheets on MNO’s website as more information on this program is made available.
Again, included under the federal government’s Economic Response Plan is the Indigenous Community Support Fund, which allocated $3.725 million in financial support for the Métis Nation of Ontario.
Provincially, the Ontario government has distributed $100,000 in financial aid to the MNO.
One hundred percent of the emergency support funds provided by Canada and Ontario will be going to support Citizens on the ground and in our communities.
MNO Interim COVID-19 Emergency Supports
In addition to using the funds from Canada and Ontario, the MNO has identified $5 million from within existing programs and services that will be reprofiled or tailored to meet citizen needs during COVID-19.
MNO Community Councils are eligible to receive $5,000 in aid to support Citizens in need to access food, medicine and household supplies. A communique about this funding, as well as the parameters on this funding, have been circulated to all MNO Community Councils. In addition to purchasing food, medicine, and other essential supplies, these funds may also be used to reimburse delivery/travel costs for community volunteers, at a rate of $0.55/km. Questions concerning council funding should be directed to Russell Ott.
The main MNO COVID-19 Support programs at this time will include: bridging support programs to assist with emergency food, medical, or supply needs; emergency housing support programs to assist with rent and housing concerns; and an emergency family support program to assist families with children at home.
MNO “Bridge” programs
EMERGENCY INCOME & RENT RELIEF
These two benefits are available to MNO Citizens who have lost income since March 15, 2020 as a result of the pandemic:
The Rent Relief Benefit will provide a one-time benefit to MNO Citizen households, to a maximum of $1,000, to assist in paying rent costs as they transition to CERB and other supports. This benefit is limited to one per household and can be combined with the MNO Emergency Income Relief Benefit.
The Emergency Income Relief Benefit provides a one-time benefit to MNO Citizens, to a maximum of $750, to assist in paying for expenses such as food or medicine as they transition to CERB and other supports. This benefit is also limited to one per household.
EMERGENCY FAMILY SUPPORTS
For Citizens with children aged 0-12, the MNO is offering the MNO Emergency Family Fund. Families may be eligible to receive a one-time benefit of $500 per child, up to a maximum of $2,000, to aid during this time of physical distancing. This benefit is limited to one per household.
For Citizens with children aged 0–6, the MNO has the MNO Food Security Fund for Children. Families can receive up to $600 (based on $200 monthly for three months) to purchase food to support child nutrition. This benefit is limited to one per household.
For Citizens with children aged 0-6, the MNO has the MNO Technology Fund for Children. Families can receive a one-time benefit of $500 per Métis family to assist in the purchasing of technology for their children aged 0-6 to support learning at home. Technology can include, but is not limited to, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, headphones, software, and apps. This benefit is limited to one per household.
Applications can be made to these either directly online with the online application found on our website, or by phoning the toll-free COVID-19 support line at 1-800-263-4889.
The MNO has currently received hundreds of applications, which will be triaged and assigned to an MNO operations team for processing. From there, a member of the operations staff will be in contact with the applicant to ensure information relevant to the program(s) and individual’s needs are properly considered. The staff person will then work internally within the MNO to process the application with one payment being issued to the recipient, ideally electronically, to minimize delays.
We recognize that some Citizens may have urgent needs, and they are encouraged to use our designated email firstname.lastname@example.org or tollfree line at 1-800-263-4889.
The MNO would also like to remind Citizens that fees for Citizenship and Harvester applications and renewal fees are being waived at this time.
The MNO has nearly completed its outreach to the 2,716 Citizens considered vulnerable and over 70 years of age. Of the 1,000+ seniors that the team did reach, 72% expressed that they had no needs at this time. Those that expressed “urgent” or “emergent” (might not be urgent now but if its not dealt with it will become urgent) needs have been triaged and the MNO operations team are responding to address their needs. PCMNO Senators are following-up with a number of our seniors who mentioned concern about feeling isolated and lonely.
Since the outbreak, the MNO Community Relations branch has been collaborating with Community Councils to identify leads on COVID-19 related inquiries. Councils are also in the process of compiling volunteer rosters to ensure that the specific needs of local communities are being met.
The MNO continues work to advance the Métis Government Recognition and Self Government Agreement (MGRSA)—which includes funding for regions to engage in consultations and conversations on Regional Implementation Agreements and work plans. Relevant information is being provided to the MNO Regional Councillors.
AGMs and AGA
All MNO Community Council Annual General Meetings (AGM) and upcoming Council elections have been postponed a this time.
The PCMNO will also be discussing next steps and consideration for the 2020 Annual General Assembly at the next PCMNO zoom meeting scheduled to take place April 27 and 28th.
Social connections and community volunteers
The emotional and mental wellbeing of our Citizens remains a priority while navigating COVID-19 and our response to the pandemic. We therefore encourage you to continue building on and establishing social connections with others who may be struggling with the isolation. A friendly phone call, email, or even a letter lets others know you are thinking of them during these challenging times.
Individuals wishing to contribute to the health and wellbeing of their local communities in more concrete ways are encouraged to contact their Community Council to sign-up as a community volunteer. Councils are currently looking for volunteers to help deliver food, medicine, and other essential supplies to vulnerable Citizens in our communities. Those interested should reach out to their local councils for more information. Guidelines for volunteers have been created by MNO and will be distributed in the near future.
The MNO is also pleased to announce that the second “MNO Virtual Kitchen Party” took place on Saturday, April 11 featuring Cassidy Houston and Donny L’Hirondelle. Be sure to follow our posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for future announcements.
Follow Up from last call
The Education and Training branch has been reaching out to students that have applied for post-secondary support funding to provide them with updates. Further the branch is looking at additional options for student supports as well as summer employment opportunities. More information will be shared as this is finalized.
MNO is monitoring the COVID related support requests and will evaluate what resources may be mobilized to best support and bridge our Citizens until additional federal and provincial supports are made available.
Food security and harvesting
In response to previous conversations held between the PCMNO and Minister Rickford, issues relating to access to food and future food security have been flagged as a priority. The MNO is currently building a food security strategy and will be approaching this strategy broadly to include wild foods and leveraging existing community freezer capacity, while also considering sustainability. These efforts will help guide decisions on procuring, storing and distributing food stuffs in the future.
As we approach harvesting season for foods such as leeks, morels, and smelt, the MNO is developing guidelines on how to safely harvest in the times of COVID-19. Consistent with advice from health authorities and leadership, we again stress the importance of physical distancing and will be providing tips for those choosing to harvest at this time.
Zoom accounts continue to be the preferred video-conferencing tool for communicating with teams during COVID-19, and we are pleased to see these accounts being implemented within communities and councils. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the conferencing tool by checking out the many tutorials available online. Those with additional questions should contact Community Relations.
The next Telephone Town Hall for all MNO Councils is scheduled for Wednesday April 15, 2020 at 7:00 PM EST.
If you have COVID-19 related concerns, need help accessing supports, or have questions regarding the Métis Nation of Ontario’s response to the pandemic please contact us at: 1-800-263-4889 (toll free) OR email@example.com.
Jennifer St. Germain
Posted April 17, 2020