November 17, 2020 (Ottawa) – When the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary lock-down measures disrupted community services, Canadian seniors who depend on those services for support became increasingly vulnerable and isolated.

On March 29, to provide immediate essential services to seniors during the pandemic, the Government of Canada announced a grant of $9 million under the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) to be distributed through the United Way Centraide Canada network.

United Way Centraide Canada, working with Employment and Social Development Canada, developed a population distribution model and rapidly disbursed these funds in late April to 77 United Ways and Centraides (UWCs) across the country, enabling them to meet some of the critical local community needs that emerged amongst vulnerable seniors during the early stages of the pandemic.

Through the NHSP, more than 1.3M interventions were offered to support 703,339 vulnerable seniors during the pandemic through 937 programs offered by a network of 876 community agencies across Canada. Grants issued through the NHSP total $8,517,753. Grant amounts ranged from $110 to $97,852, and the average grant size was $9,090.

The most frequently funded programs were those that provided food and grocery supports. A total of 69% of programs provided food, meal deliveries, grocery deliveries, grocery vouchers, and other food related services. Outreach to prevent or address isolation among seniors was the next most funded service category (57%), followed by hygiene and cleaning supports and/or supplies (35%), mental health supports (33%), and capacity building to ramp-up new services (27%). Most programs funded through the NHSP (81%) provided multiple supports in more than one service category.

With this funding, vulnerable seniors in Winnipeg are receiving hot meal deliveries and personal care items from a network of community service organizations. Senior refugee and immigrant women in the Greater Toronto Area can participate in weekly virtual sharing circles to reduce isolation and receive information about COVID-19. In PEI, these funds support wellness checks by phone for seniors across the island. And seniors in the Yukon requiring critical services such as food delivery, computer and internet access, and basic cleaning supplies, are receiving these supports.

Check out this interactive map to see the local program investments:

To-date, the cost to administer this program by the UWC network, including implementation and reporting, was covered by 4% of total funding. In 11 cases, local UWCs opted to use philanthropic dollars to cover these costs. In these markets, 100% of the funding was used to support community service organizations.

Canada’s United Ways and Centraides operate in and support over 5,000 communities across Canada from large cities to rural and northern communities. Each year, local UWCs invest in over 450 programs to meet the needs of seniors and support essential services that help seniors maintain active, healthy and independent lives. “As a result of this deep knowledge of communities and senior-serving organizations, we were able to ensure that Canadian seniors in vulnerable situations were getting support as quickly as possible during this crisis,” said Dan Clement, President & CEO, United Way Centraide Canada.

United Way Centraide Canada is proud to work in partnership with Employment and Social Development Canada to deliver this funding to essential seniors’ support programs across Canada.