September 1, 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 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.

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.

The majority of the funds were granted to local community service organizations in May and June. A total of $8,568,853 has been invested in 935 community programs for vulnerable seniors across the country. With a wide range of grant amounts based on the deliverables of the community service organization, the average grant was $9,003.

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:

In every province and territory, the most frequently funded service category was either related to food security or outreach. The most frequently funded service categories overall included food and grocery access (24%), outreach to prevent or address social isolation (18%), hygiene and cleaning supports or supplies (11%), and mental health supports (10%), along with other needs such as medication delivery, transportation, housing support, and more.

United Way Centraide Canada is pleased to work in partnership with Employment and Social Development Canada to deliver this funding to essential seniors’ support programs across Canada. The cost to administer this program by the United Way Centraide network, including implementation and reporting, was covered by 4.79% of the funds.