Low income

Neighbourhood COVID-19 rates 

The rate of COVID-19 cases in the poorest 20% of Hamilton’s neighbourhoods (179 per 100,000 people) was nearly double that in the richest 20% of neighbourhoods (99 per 100,000 people). Similarly, the 20% of neighbourhoods with the highest proportion of racialized residents had more than double the rates of COVID-19 cases (196 per 100,000 people) than the 20% of neighbourhoods with the lowest percentages of racialized residents (81 per 100,000).1

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) 

A monthly average of 57,500 Hamiltonians received CERB payments of approximately $2,000 per month.  In the program’s first month, 101,300 Hamiltonians (18%) received the benefit with this number falling gradually to 33,700 individuals (6%) in its seventh and final month.  CERB varied substantially by neighbourhood for the first month; uptake was as much as 30% of residents in higher poverty neighbourhoods, compared to 16% in wealthier neighborhoods.2

Income change 

According to Statistics Canada national research, from January to September 2020, disposable income for the poorest 20% of Canadians improved by 37%.  This increase was attributed to temporary emergency benefit programs like the CERB and others, which outpaced the loss of wages and salaries for many households.  In 2020, these programs led to closing the gap between the poorest 20% of Canadian households (who now hold 7.2% of all disposable income up from 6.1% one year ago) and the richest 20% of Canadians (who now hold 38% of all disposable income, down from 40% one year ago).3

Social assistance caseloads and benefit levels

The number of households in Hamilton who received Ontario Works fell to 9,200 in December 2020 from 10,919 in January 2020, a decline of 16%.4 Experts attributed this decline to the temporary availability of CERB benefits.5 The benefit levels for people who receive Ontario Works remained well below average rents. Individuals receive $733/month with $390 intended to cover shelter costs, while average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton in October 2020 was $1,033.6 Couples receive $1,136 per month with $780 designated for shelter costs, while average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,184.7 Legislated annual increases to these rates were cancelled by the current government in 2018. An increase of 1.5% was approved in 2019 and rates have remained frozen since then.

[1] Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (2020).  COVID-19 in Hamilton.  Social Landscape Issue #17.
[2] Canadian Press, 2020.  Information provided by Hamilton Spectator. 
[3] Statistics Canada (March 2021).  Household economic well-being during the Covid-19 pandemic.
[4] Special Data Request, City of Hamilton, Ontario Works division.
[5] Special Communication, Dr. Thomas Cooper, CEO, Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.
[6] City of Hamilton, Ontario Works division.
[7] Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental Market Report 2020