January 11, 2022

Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy
Minister of Finance & President of the Treasury Board
Government of Ontario

Sent via Email: peter.bethlenfalvy@pc.ola.org

Dear Minister:

RE: Pandemic Pay for Front Line Workers

You will recall that we wrote to you almost one year ago, on February 4, 2021 to request that pandemic pay be extended to front line workers in shelters to recognize their exceptional work in caring for many of our most vulnerable adults who are experiencing homelessness and those who are precariously housed.

This is our third letter to you on this topic, the first being August 6, 2020 when we wrote to applaud the decision by your government to fund pandemic pay for essential workers.

As leaders of Ottawa’s largest homeless shelters, all of which are charitable organizations whose budgets are comprised mainly of staffing dollars while we also struggle to fund programs and services, we implore you to help at this crucial time.

Collectively, we have incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs for pandemic related expenses such as PPE, enhanced cleaning protocols, increased staffing and other costs to minimize the risks posed by Covid19 in a 24/7 environment. While we have appreciated government support to assist with many of those costs, we have had to raise millions of dollars to cover the true costs of providing services for those who come through our doors every day; those who have nowhere else to go.

As we also noted in our previous request for assistance, the Government of Ontario provided pandemic pay for essential workers from the beginning of the health crisis which demonstrated respect and gratitude for workers who place the health and well-being of those they serve above all else.

We are grateful for the contributions of all essential workers throughout the course of the past two years. We do believe, however, that shelter workers – who care for many of the most marginalized individuals in society – have not been recognized for the incredible work they do to assist people who are living with mental health challenges, substance use disorders and trauma. It is exceptionally difficult work in often chaotic environments. To do this work in the midst of a pandemic wearing full PPE for eight hour shifts, caring for service users who often can’t care for themselves, prioritizing families and on-line schooling, caring for elderly family members and navigating the healthcare system during virus outbreaks to name a few, has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Workers who occupy a variety of frontline, clinical, cleaning and food service positions at Ottawa’s emergency shelters received pandemic pay for a short period of time and then it was revoked. We will re-quote our Premier who said: “During these dark days, the Ontario spirit continues to shine through with everyday acts of heroism, courage, and compassion by our frontline workers. These people put themselves in harm’s way to care for our sick and vulnerable citizens. I am truly grateful, as are the people of Ontario, for their service, and it’s time we give something back to those who sacrifice so much day in and day out.” We couldn’t have said it better and ask once again that you give back to those front-line workers who have shown up day in and day out in ever changing circumstances to provide exceptional care by offering pandemic pay immediately in recognition of their hard work.

Minister, we will also re-quote you: “The pandemic payment recognizes the valiant efforts of our frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19. These heroic workers are delivering critical services that support all Ontarians, including the most vulnerable members of our communities, often putting themselves or their loved ones at risk. They are saving lives and we owe them an incredible debt of gratitude.”

The Omicron variant is rampant in every community across the globe. Here in Ottawa, we are struggling to retain staff during this difficult time. The risks associated with Covid19 have not disappeared. There are significant outbreaks in COVID-19 transmissions throughout all shelters. Our staff are working tirelessly. They deserve respect and support for their contribution to society throughout the pandemic.

On August 6, 2020, we asked that you assume the costs of paying our essential workers the pandemic pay they so deserve for the remainder of the pandemic. When it was withdrawn, we wrote again on February 4, 2021 and our request was not granted. We write again today to implore you to support us and show our workers their government and its citizens recognize the contributions they have made and continue to make daily.

It is almost two years since this world-wide pandemic began and we are once again experiencing a large outbreak; not only in our shelters, but in the community at large. The on-going housing crisis and deadly toxic street drug supply make our work more difficult. People who don’t have a home can’t isolate or follow most of the public health directives. Our teams are responding to multiple overdoses daily. We have lost many individuals during the past two years due to their mental and physical health challenges, which have significantly increased. This is difficult work and our employees deserve to be recognized and compensated for their professionalism and dedication during these extraordinary times.

The pandemic continues. Our teams are exhausted. We urge your government to support our frontline champions by extending pandemic pay, retroactive to January 1, 2022 and until such time as the variants of concern are not resulting in huge outbreaks such as we now see. They deserve no less.

A positive response as soon as possible is appreciated. We are available to meet at your convenience.


Sarah Davis
Executive Director
Cornerstone Housing for Women

Peter Tilley
Chief Executive Officer
The Ottawa Mission

Marc Provost
Executive Director
The Salvation Army Ottawa Booth Centre

Deirdre Freiheit
Chief Executive Officer
Shepherds of Good Hope

Wendy Muckle
Chief Executive Officer
Ottawa Inner City Health

Tyler Fainstat
Executive Director
John Howard Society of Ottawa

cc: Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Honourable Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
Honourable Steve Clark
Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, Government of Ontario
Lucille Collard, MPP, Ottawa-Vanier
His Worship, Mayor Jim Watson, City of Ottawa
Mathieu Fleury, Councillor, Rideau-Vanier, City of Ottawa
Catherine McKenney, Councillor, Somerset/Council Liaison for Housing & Homelessness
Donna Gray, General Manager of Community and Social Services, City of Ottawa
Saide Sayah, Acting Director of Housing, City of Ottawa