COVID-19 Update and Progress Report

Posted on January 31, 2022
By Natasha Pei

A look back through the Communities Ending Poverty (CEP) network’s activities and impacts from 2020 to 2021 reveals that CEP members worked tirelessly to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as much as possible for their communities. Some even made progress towards ending poverty.

The new report, Communities Ending Poverty: 2021 Progress & COVID-19 Update, celebrates the pockets of progress towards ending poverty reported in several communities across Canada against the backdrop of COVID-19.

Stories from across CanadaCommunities Ending Poverty: 2021 Progress & COVID-19 Update

National data and stories from Communities Ending Poverty members indicate that while life has gotten harder – more expensive, more precarious in the labour market, more challenges for accessibility challenges and more mental health issues – the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has broadened awareness about long-standing root causes of poverty and highlighted poverty solutions.

Decision-makers have shown more resolve to take action; for instance, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a quasi-basic income, was introduced quickly and has been referenced by practitioners in both financial empowerment and food security fields for staving off a widespread hunger and debt crisis.

Contributing to local impact

This report brings together national statistics to help readers gain an understanding of how poverty has changed since the beginning of the pandemic.

It exemplifies how CEP members have contributed to local impact in the following ways:

  • By working hard in their communities to raise awareness, educate decision-makers and persuade business and governments to commit to new ways of working together
  • By influencing policy and systems changes
  • By implementing innovative programs and services that provide families with immediate benefits
  • By building capacity in their communities by increasing financial and human resources through partnerships

Examples from the Communities Ending Poverty network

Some examples of local member impact include the following:

  • Income securityBC’s Living Wage for Families campaign, which works with 13 local communities, reported that between 2020 and 2021 they nearly doubled the rate of Living Wage employers being certified. This brings the total of Living Wage employers in BC to 300 and enabled 31,712 employees to earn at least a living wage.
  • Housing – Medicine Hat (AB), London (ON), Guelph-Wellington (ON) and Dufferin County (ON) used the Built for Zero approach to shift their many different local housing supports towards one coordinated access model. The result of these efforts is that they ended or significantly reduced homelessness in their respective communities.
  • EducationOpportUNITY Iowa (USA) raised awareness amongst political decision-making tables about newcomers with credentials, degrees or professional designations earned in other countries that aren’t recognized in the United States. Their work to change state legislation would enhance the employability of newcomers and provide the community with access to expertise that is going underutilized, especially during the COVID-19 health care worker shortage.
  • Food security – Chatham-Kent (ON) and Saint John (NB) both found new ways to get food to residents during COVID-19 lockdowns. The latter did so through a redeployment of non-profit staff and volunteers to pack and deliver food, while the former developed a mobile market that targeted rural residents who have less access to grocery stores or emergency food services.
  • Financial Empowerment – The Volunteer Centre of St. Lawrence-Rideau (ON) brought $24M into the community by hosting Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) clinics for low-income residents across the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. This, coupled with newly launched financial empowerment workshops, helped clients helped pay off credit card debt, open savings accounts and reduce the frequency of impulse purchases and the costs of monthly bills.
  • jesse-martini-regina-saskatchewan_croppedHealth – The Dufferin County Equity Collaborative (ON) increased the use of community-based acute care services in an effort to divert residents using the hospital ER as their primary health care access. They did this by expanding services of the Family Health Team to non-rostered patients; introduced a 1-800 number for residents without a family doctor to book an appointment; and launched a social media, partner and print awareness campaign.
  • Early Childhood DevelopmentUnited Way Regina prioritized helping children to achieve developmental milestones and funded several local non-profits programs. Collectively, these programs have resulted in improving behaviour or impulse control, language and cognitive development, and gross and fine motor skills.
  • Increasing capacity – Local United Ways and Community Foundations, which are key partners of many CEP collaboratives, took on the role of administering federal funding for the first time in order to get funding quickly to community groups who needed it most. Several municipalities adapted their community fund requirements to help non-profits respond to COVID-19 need.

Read the report

Learn more about the ways in which Communities Ending Poverty members are having an impact on poverty and key next steps for the movement. Download the Communities Ending Poverty: 2021 Progress & COVID-19 Update here.


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Natasha Pei, Poverty Reduction Strategy, COVID-19, CRP Blogs, Homepage Blog

Natasha Pei

By Natasha Pei

Natasha Pei brings online content to life and engages our members in the Vibrant Communities learning centre for poverty reduction. Natasha's involvement with Tamarack began with the Communities First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) project, where she worked as a Research Assistant in the Poverty Reduction Hub, studying effective ways community-campus engagement can be undertaken to have real benefits for the community.

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