In such a short period of time, our lives have drastically changed. No longer can you swing by your parents' place for dinner; catch-up with a coworker at a local cafe; or enjoy a pint with a friend after work.
And while so much has already changed, one thing that remains in place is paying rent, even for the thousands of Ontario residents who have already lost their jobs and businesses.
This is why the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is calling on the Ford government for further support for workers and their families and demanding rent relief in the form of "the cancellation or abatement of rent, evictions, and utility payments."
The OFL, which represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario, spoke out Tuesday morning ahead of the Ontario legislature's return to Queen's Park. And while the Ford government is set to pass the extension of its state of emergency orders Tuesday afternoon, OFL president Patty Coates says the government should also be legislating rent relief.
"Workers, their families, and small businesses continue to face great financial uncertainty as they await legislated rent and mortgage relief," said Coates in an email statement to Toronto Storeys.
"With the COVID-19 crisis continuing, and month’s end fast approaching, all levels of government must ensure that workers are protected and can remain employed, and small businesses are set up for success."
In the lead up to the April rent deadline, Premier Ford told tenants that if they were in a crisis and could not pay their rent, they shouldn’t. However, the province has yet to implement legislation that would allow for rent relief to occur, prompting the OFL to call on the provincial government to immediately subsidize household rent, up to $2,500 per home, per month for up to four months. Additionally, the OFL is calling for a six-month freeze on rent increases so that workers and their families are protected during the financial recovery when the pandemic ends.
The OFL is not alone in calling for rent relief.
The Better Way Alliance has called for a rent subsidy for tenants to cover commercial rent costs, retroactive to April 1, 2020, and asked for it to last as long as public health officials’ orders require self-isolation and physical distancing. The Alliance says it is also considering the time needed for businesses to recover from closures and consumer spending to return to pre-crisis levels. At the same time, small business owners have now called for a freeze on commercial rent evictions until the economy recovers from COVID-19.
“Making rent relief a reality requires government intervention. The banks should be mandated to pause mortgages for residential and commercial borrowers, and in turn, that relief should be passed on to tenants,” says Coates.
Coates added that further delays in providing this needed support to workers, their families, and small businesses will be "detrimental" to employment stability and economic recovery post-COVID-19.