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Ontario Works

COVID-19 related resources and information

Ontario Works used to be called “General Welfare Assistance”. It is one of two social assistance programs in the Province of Ontario. If you have little or no income, you may qualify for assistance from Ontario Works. OW helps people in financial need pay for living expenses, like food and housing and give them support in finding a job.

If you live in the Hamilton area, you should call 905-546-4800 and press 1 to make an application for Ontario Works (OW).

Our Clinic offers information, advice and representation if you have been denied OW or your benefits have been suspended or terminated. We can talk to OW to challenge decisions, help you appeal decisions and sometimes represent you at the Social Benefits Tribunal. We can also help you to get particular benefits, like the Housing Stability benefit and Employment Start Up.

Who is eligible for OW assistance?

  • those who cannot find work
  • those who are temporarily unable to work
  • those who are earning so little that they qualify for assistance
  • those who are applying for disability benefits from the province (Ontario Disability Support Program: ODSP) and need assistance while they are waiting for these benefits to begin

The City of Hamilton is responsible for Ontario Works. They will look at your total household income when deciding if you are entitled to receive these benefits.  This means that they will look at the income of any adult you are living with, even if you are single. That person’s contribution to the rent (if sharing accommodation) or income (if you are living with another adult) will be considered when calculating how much you both receive every month.

Participation Agreement

You will not be granted Ontario Works benefits until you sign a Participation Agreement.  A caseworker will schedule meetings to update your information and to make sure you are doing what you are supposed to do under the Participation Agreement.  There are also things which you must do to stay eligible for Ontario Works.

What if I my OW Benefits are denied or terminated? (Appeals)

If you are denied Ontario Works or your benefits have been suspended or terminated, you should appeal. We can assist you with the request for an Internal Review (IR) and an appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal.

  • You have 30 days from the date of the decision to request an Internal Review
  • You have 30 days from the date of the IR decision to appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal.

You should call us for help as soon as you receive a written decision telling you that you will not receive benefits or your benefits are being suspended/cancelled.

More information about benefits

Ontario Works benefits are divided into Basic Needs Allowance and a Shelter Allowance.

Basic Needs Allowance (BNA):

This is a fixed amount, depending on the number of persons in your household. Effective from October 1, 2018.:

  • single person – $343
  • couple – $494

These amounts will not change unless a spouse and/or children were to be added to (or deducted from) your benefits in the future.  The Basic Needs Allowance would be higher if you have children.

Shelter Allowance:

Unlike the Basic Needs Allowance, this allowance varies and you may not be entitled to the total shelter allowance.  This allowance is based on the amount of your rent, utilities, water and home insurance.

The maximum Shelter Allowance:

  • single person – $390
  • couple – $642

If you are single and living in subsidized accommodation and your rent (including utilities) is less than $390, you would only receive the amount that you are actually paying every month.

If your rent is more than $390, then you would only receive $368 and you would have to use money from your Basic Needs Allowance to pay your rent.

In the case of a couple, if your shelter costs are less than $642, you would only receive the amount you are actually paying each month.  If your shelter costs are more than $642, you would have to use some of your Basic Needs Allowance to pay your rent.

If you have children your maximum shelter will be higher, depending on the number of children and their ages.

Drug Card:

If you qualify for Ontario Works benefits, you will receive a drug card to cover many medication costs. There is also dental coverage for any children you receive benefits for and limited dental assistance for you and your spouse (emergency treatment – extractions, etc.)

How are benefits calculated if there is other household income?

If you have other income, such as group life benefits, employment insurance, or workplace safety & insurance board benefits, Ontario Works can only “top up” your benefits by paying the difference between what you already receive and the amount you are entitled to from Ontario Works.  Employment income is treated differently.

Employment Support

Ontario Works may provide you with employment support to help you find a job or upgrade your skills.  A caseworker will discuss employment support with you at your initial interview, if you are able to work.  If you find work, you may be able to continue to receive Ontario Works. Extended Health Benefits.

Will I receive help with medication?

When you qualify for Ontario Works, you will receive a drug card for yourself and any other member of your family who is included in your monthly cheque. This will cover many of your medication costs and some dental costs. If you find work, you may be entitled to help with your medication, etc. for a period of time.

What other kinds of benefits can I get?

In certain circumstances, you may qualify for the Housing Stability Benefit (HSB).  As of January 1, 2013, the HSB replaced Community Start Up & Maintenance Benefits (CSUMB). Although similar to the CSUMB, approved applicants for the HSB are only eligible for the maximum amount in a 24-month period.  No one will be given more than the maximum amount ($799 for a single recipient and $1500 for a family) in a 24 month period.  HSB will not be given to anyone setting up home outside Hamilton.

OW recipients can now apply for this benefit by contacting their OW case manager and will be given an application form (these forms are available at all OW offices).  If a Housing Stability Benefit is denied there is no longer a right of appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal.  An internal assessment process is now in place at the Ontario Works offices.

  • If you have to move or you have rent/utilities arrears.
  • There are also a number of other benefits, including a Utility Arrears Program, which may be available to you and you should contact us or your Ontario Works caseworker for further information on which benefits are available to you.
  • If you own your home, you may be eligible for help with necessary home repairs.