Ontario Works

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Ontario Works (OW) is a province-wide assistance program that offers financial relief in the form of monthly payments to Ontarians facing severe financial hardships.

Founded in 1997, this program has helped residents find temporary financial solace with paying for basic living expenses until they find a job and become self-sufficient.

What makes this assistance program unique is that it encourages recipients to find a suitable job by creating an Action Plan that recognizes and addresses their unique barriers to employment.

In this article, we will explore everything about the Ontario Works program — how it works, its benefits, application process, and more.

Payment Calendar for Ontario Works 2022

Benefit Month (2022) Payment Date
January December 31, 2021
February January 31, 2022
March February 28, 2022
April March 31, 2022
May April 29, 2022
June May 31, 2022
July June 30, 2022
August July 29, 2022
September August 31, 2022
October September 29, 2022
November October 31, 2022
December November 30, 2022

What is Ontario Works?

Ontario Works provides financial assistance to those in need while fostering self-reliance by giving them powerful resources to flourish in their journey towards employment.

All OW recipients must sign a Participation Agreement that mandates them to participate in several job-related activities.

When enrolled in the Ontario Works program, the monthly payment covers your and your family members’ basic expenses, such as food, shelter, childcare and medication cost, so that you can focus on recovery and career development.

How much payment you receive will depend on your family size, income, expenses, and a few other variables.


Ontario Works Eligibility

The eligibility criteria for Ontario Works payments are pretty straightforward. To receive OW, you must:

  • Be 16 years of age or older.
  • Live in Ontario.
  • Demonstrate the need for financial assistance to pay for food and shelter.
  • Be willing to participate in efforts to find a job.

Note that there are some conditions that may bar you from obtaining Ontario Works benefits. These include:

  • Being absent from Ontario for more than seven days unless an administrator has approved your absence, and you’re leaving due to health reasons or some other exceptional circumstances.
  • Being a visitor in Ontario, unless you made a refugee claim or have filed an application for permanent residency.
  • Being a tourist.
  • Being someone against whom a deportation order or a removal order has been authorized, unless:
  • It’s for reasons entirely beyond their control that the person cannot leave the country, or
  • The person filed a permanent resident application based on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.

When vetting your eligibility, the two most essential elements that dictate whether you’re approved are your current financial situation and your willingness to secure a job.

The OW staff will evaluate your family size, income, assets, and housing expenses to determine your financial eligibility.

Then, they will cultivate a plan for you to find work or improve your current skills. Your responsibilities will be clearly defined in your Participation Agreement, which you must sign.

How to Apply for Ontario Works

Before you start the Ontario Works application process, make sure you have the following information about your family members available:

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Birth certificate
  • Tax returns
  • Ontario Health Card number
  • Immigration documents
  • Banking information
  • Your address
  • Your housing costs and other expenses (e.g. childcare)

Filling out the application

You have two ways to apply:

  • Online: An online application is available on the Government of Ontario’s website. It will take you about 40 minutes to complete.
  • Phone: To apply by phone, you must be over 18 and not need a trustee or an interpreter. To apply, call the Ontario government at 1-888-999-1142.


Application Review

Once you apply, the local Ontario Works office will contact you within four working days to schedule an in-person verification appointment with a caseworker.

Verification Appointment

At your scheduled meeting at the local Ontario Works office, the caseworker may ask you for more information and verify the documents submitted with your application.

They may also ask you for oral or written consent to allow Ontario Works to access your information from third-party programs and organizations such as:

  • A credit check from Equifax Canada to verify assets
  • Ministry of Transportation to verify vehicle ownership and change in residence
  • Canada Revenue Agency for income verification
  • Family Responsibility Office to verify spousal support benefit
  • Employment Insurance to verify your EI benefits

Also, to finalize the application process, you, your spouse and, if necessary, any dependent adults, sign the application and all the related forms.


Once the caseworker obtains all the required documents to verify your information and determine your financial eligibility to receive benefits, they will notify you within four business days whether your application is approved, as well as when and how much benefit amount you will receive.

If your application is denied, you can seek an internal review within 30 days of receiving the decision. If the application fails at this stage, you can appeal the internal review decision to the Social Benefits Tribunal.

Post-approval Meeting

Once you’re approved, you will have to attend another appointment with your caseworker, where he or she will create a plan for you to find a job or participate in training and other programs to improve your skills. This is mandatory unless you have an illness or caregiving responsibilities that will make it challenging to pursue employment.

Ontario Works Benefits

Ontario Works offers its recipients three types of benefits — financial assistance, health benefits, and employment assistance.

We will explore the details of each benefit below.

Ontario Works Payment Amounts

Several variables influence your monthly Ontario Works payment. These include family size, assets, income, and housing expenses.

Here’s an overview of how much you can expect to receive for basic needs, shelter, and board and lodging.

Basic needs

This refers to food, clothing, and other personal expenses. The amount you receive depends on your family size, and you will get the payment to cover basic needs even if you do not have an address.

Number of children or dependent adults Basic needs payment
single person No child $343
1 child 17 years or under $360
1 dependent adult 18 years or older $623
2 children 17 years or under $360
1 child 17 years or under, and 1 dependent adult 18 years or older $623
2 dependent adults 18 years or older $781
Couple No child $494
1 child 17 years or under $494
1 dependent adult 18 years or older $652
2 children 17 years or under $494
1 child 17 years or under, and I dependent adult 18 years or older $652
2 dependent adults 18 years or older $826

For every additional child or dependent adult, you will receive $175 per month to cover their basic needs.


Payment for shelter covers expenses such as a mortgage, rent, utilities, gas, and more. How much you receive depends on your family size, with the total amount capped by the maximum shelter allowance mentioned below.

Family size Monthly maximum shelter allowance
1 $390
2 $642
3 $697
4 $756
5 $815
6 or more members $844

This means, if you’re a family of two and your apartment rent is $650, you will receive $642 in shelter allowance.

Board and Lodging

This is applicable in situations where the rent payment includes meals, e.g. assisted living facilities. The amount you will receive will depend on your board and lodging cost, up to a maximum amount shown in the table below.

In addition to the amount mentioned in the table, you will also receive a $71 special allowance.

Number of children or dependent adults Maximum amount for single person Maximum amount for couple
No child $533 $688
1 child 17 years or under $664 $752
1 dependent adult 18 years or older $752 $790
2 children 17 years or under $737 $813
1 child 17 years or under, and 1 dependent adult 18 years or older $825 $851
2 dependent adults 18 years or older $873 $887
3 children 17 years or under $806 $874
2 children 17 years or under, and 1 dependent adult 18 years or older $894 $912
2 dependent adults 18 years or older, and 1 child 17 years or under $942 $948
3 dependent adults 18 and over $980 $984

For every additional child or dependent adult of a sole parent:

  • You will receive $69 to the maximum amount for each child that's 17 years or under
  • You will receive $120 to the maximum amount for each dependent adult

For every additional child, or dependent adult of a couple:

  • You will receive $61 to the maximum amount for each child that's 17 years or under
  • You will receive $100 to the maximum amount for each dependent adult

Ontario Works Employment Assistance

Ontario Works provides you with a pool of valuable resources you can use to prepare for and find a job. OW staff will help identify gaps in your current skill sets and collaborate with you to determine what you can do to improve your likelihood of scoring a job.

The OW staff will then develop a plan taking into account your skills, experience, and any circumstances you may be facing in life.

Depending on your situation, OW will give you access to a range of resources that you can use in your employment search. These include:

  • Education programs to help you finish high school, improve your language skills, as well as your reading, writing, or math skills
  • Job-specific skills training
  • If you’re a young parent between ages 16 to 25, the Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP) program can help you finish high school, improve your parenting skills, and assist you in finding work so you can better support your family.
  • Connect you with recruiters when you’re ready to find a job.
  • Provide access to computers, phones, faxes, and banks for job-related activities

Participating in employment-related activities is crucial to qualifying for Ontario Works. The caseworker will update your Participation Agreement contract to reflect your progress as you finish the different activities.

Health Benefits

As an Ontario Works recipient, you and your family are eligible for certain health-related assistance as well.

  • Prescription drug coverage: If an approved healthcare professional has prescribed you or your family drugs that are listed in the Ontario Drug Formulary, you will be able to get compensation for that.
  • Dental coverage for children: Children who are 17 years of age or under will be auto-enrolled in Healthy Smiles Ontario, a government-funded dental care program.
  • Vision care for children: There is coverage available for your children's vision-related expenses. You can get the costs for prescription eyeglasses and eyeglass repair covered.
  • Eye examination: There is compensation available for eye examination through Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) for OW recipients under 20 years of age or 65 or older. Those between the ages of 20 and 64 can have the cost of one routine eye exam covered every 24 months.
  • Diabetes or surgical supplies: You can have expenses for those covered if you have a prescription for diabetes or surgical supplies or dressings.
  • Medical-related travel: If you have to travel for treatment, rehabilitation, or counselling appointments, OW may cover the costs.
  • Assisted devices: OW may compensate the remaining costs of an assistive device that the Assistive Devices Program does not cover. They may also cover the assessment session for an assistive device.
  • Extended health benefits: If you no longer qualify for OW monthly payments but have significant health costs, you can still receive extended health benefits that provide coverage for prescription drugs, hearing aids, eyeglasses, diabetic supplies, and more.

Ontario Works for Victims of Abuse

If you’re currently living in an unsafe and violent environment, OW can help you receive financial assistance to get you somewhere safe while also providing resources to find a job.

If you’re a victim of abuse that needs financial aid, contact your local Ontario Works office. Let the staff know about your abusive situation. They will schedule an appointment with you within 24 hours at a premise where you feel safe.