COVID-19 Questions and Answers

Answers to some of the questions you have asked recently.

I’m an essential worker and I’m also a parent without childcare now that schools and daycares were ordered to close. March Break has ended. I cannot report for work unless I have access to care for my children.

The City of Toronto has received authorization from the Province of Ontario to open licensed child care centres specifically to provide care for children of essential and critical service workers. The centres will be spread across Toronto in existing City-run child care facilities and be operated and staffed by City of Toronto licensed child care workers.

To support essential and critical workers, licensed child care service will be available, at no cost, funded by the Province of Ontario, for children from infant to age 12, and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to begin to address the unique demands of people who work shifts to keep the city safe and healthy. This is the first time a service of this type has ever been offered by the City of Toronto.

The City is establishing an online system that will be communicated widely once available. The centres will then open as quickly as possible. Essential and critical service workers have been defined by the Province and a list of those services will be made available shortly. In the interim, check www.toronto.ca/covid19 for updates and other important information.

Given physical distancing is not feasible when caring for young children, additional measures will be taken, in consultation with Toronto Public Health and the City’s Occupational Health and Safety program, to maintain a healthy and safe environment. Precautions will include daily screening of children and families prior to admission, increased cleaning, and reduced group sizes.

Will Toronto Hydro or other energy providers adjust time-of-use rates? With all of us home during the day, our power consumption is going to increase despite our best efforts to conserve energy. My workplace is closed because of COVID-19 and I’m not bringing in an income, I cannot afford an increase in my hydro bill.

Below is some information from Toronto Hydro and the Ontario Energy Board on Time-of-Use rates as well as information about payment due date extensions for City utilities (Water/Sewer Service and Solid Waste Management charges where applicable). Time-of-Use rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board and administered by local energy providers including Toronto Hydro. Information about benefits and supports for individuals is available on the Government of Canada’s website at: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html.

From Toronto Hydro:
We know the COVID-19 pandemic is putting economic stress on families and businesses, and we’re committed to helping our customers manage their electricity bills during this challenging time. Our Customer Care team is here to help with billing concerns and payment options. To discuss your bill and payment options in more detail, please call us directly at 416-542-8000 or visit https://www.torontohydro.com/covid-19. We’ve received a significant number of questions regarding Time-of-Use (TOU) rates. Please note that TOU rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). The OEB is currently looking at programs and policies to best support electricity customers during this difficult time. Any updates regarding TOU rates will be announced by the OEB directly.

From the Ontario Energy Board:
We’ve received many requests about lowering electricity prices during this unprecedented time. The Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines is looking at programs and policies to support electricity customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect that information will be made available in the coming days. More information: https://www.oeb.ca/newsroom/2020/oeb-covid-19-update.

City utility rates
Utility bills (Water/Sewer Service and Solid Waste Management charges where applicable) are normally due approximately 21 days after the billing date. The City is extending the due date for all utility bills issued to all residents by an additional 60 days, to give utility customers an additional 60 days to make payment, and still take advantage of the early payment discount. More information: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/economic-support-recovery/.

Can you clarify public health recommendations on playgrounds and parks? I still see my neighbours gathering in parks and their kids playing on playgrounds. The City should close its playgrounds – signs are not enough!

At this time, the City, is not closing parks and playgrounds. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has said that people must practise appropriate physical distancing when out in the community, including in City parks and playgrounds. Watch and listen to Dr. de Villa’s recommendations for parks and playgrounds here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqaRn2_h5Tk.

Play structures are not sanitized and caregivers should take care to help children with good hand hygiene, including washing before and after play, and ensure children remain at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others.

Signage has started to be erected in parks and near playgrounds reminding the public of the importance of physical distancing, hand hygiene, and that playgrounds are not sanitized.

For the health and safety of our communities, please remember the importance of physical distancing and minimizing contact between people, including in parks and while using amenities in parks. Again, the best thing people can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home and go out only when necessary. Exercise and time outdoors is important, but should not take place where groups of people gather.