Funding: Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities – Eligibility

2. Eligibility

Who can apply

Eligible applicants include:

  • not-for-profit organizations
  • municipal governments
  • aboriginal organizations (including band councils, tribal councils and self-government entities)
  • for-profit organizations; and
  • provincial and territorial governments, institutions, agencies and Crown Corporations

Eligible participants

Participants are recruited by the contribution recipients.

To participate in the Opportunities Fund, individuals must:

  • self-identify as having a permanent physical or mental disability that restricts his or her ability to perform daily activities
  • be legally entitled to work according to the relevant provincial and federal legislation and regulations
  • be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person who has been granted refugee status in Canada
  • not be eligible for assistance under Employment Insurance (EI) employment benefits or any similar programs that are the subject of agreements with provinces, territories, or organizations entered into pursuant to Section 63 of the EI Act (unless approved by a departmental official); and
  • require assistance to prepare for, obtain and keep employment or self-employment

Project activities

Funding decisions are based on program priorities, labour market needs, program terms and conditions, and available funding.

The following is a list of activities eligible for funding under the OF program:

  • skills for employment
  • wage subsidy
  • self-employment
  • enhanced employment assistance services; and
  • employer awareness

OF – Community Coordinator (OF-CC)

An OF Community Coordinator (OF-CC) is a contribution recipient that receives funding to enter into its own agreements with eligible participants and employers to undertake activities that further the objectives of the OF program.

An OF-CC may provide a wide spectrum of activities for OF-eligible participants; ESDC may have an agreement with an OF-CC to deliver one or more of the program options (Wage Subsidies, Employer Awareness, and Self-Employment). As well, Enhanced Employment Assistance Services (EEAS)-type activities and Skills for Employment may be included in, but not the sole activity of, an CC agreement.

OF activities

Please note that projects, excluding stand-alone employer awareness agreements, must include an employment experience component (either self-employment or wage subsidy).

To be eligible for funding under the Opportunities Fund, proposed projects must involve a minimum of 8 participants.

Within rural and remote regions, exceptions may be made vis-à-vis the minimum participant requirement. Applicants must include a strong justification as to why the minimum requirement of 8 participants cannot be fulfilled.

OF Skills for Employment (OF-SFE)

OF-SFE enables a participant to undertake short-duration Footnote 1 training and develop skills, from basic to advanced, that are required for employment. This activity, during which time participants may receive income support and other supports Footnote 2 , must be used to provide training to participants with a specific employment opportunity related to a stable or expanding sector, where there is a reasonable expectation of employment. The specific skills training supported under OF-SFE should reflect current or projected local employment opportunities.

Training may be:

  • full-time or part-time
  • short classroom-based courses
  • distance learning
  • internet-based instruction; and
  • correspondence courses

Examples of eligible OF-SFE training include:

  • pre-apprentice training
  • clinical placement
  • examination preparation courses
  • short course skills training; and
  • practicum

Skills for Employment cannot be the sole activity of an agreement and must be combined with an employment experience intervention (either self-employment or wage subsidy).

OF Wage Subsidy (OF-WS)

OF-WS provides financial support to employers to encourage them to hire persons with disabilities whom they would not normally hire. The subsidy provided to the employer is an established share of actual wages paid to the participant and mandatory employment-related costs; wages paid should be in line with the prevailing labour market rate for the position to be filled by the participant.

The subsidy rate can vary during the life of the funding agreement. A descending scale may be used, such that the amount of the subsidy diminishes over the duration of the intervention. The intervention may also include one or more blocks of time during which the employer covers the entire cost of the wages.

In order for this activity to be eligible for funding and in support of labour market needs, participants must be placed in vacant or newly created positions that offer meaningful mainstream employment opportunities and that are part of an employer’s normal business operations.

Proposals targeting youth with disabilities may include part-time employment experience (up to 15 hours per week) for secondary and post-secondary students (both full- and part-time) during the school year.

Wage subsidies can be delivered to a minimum of 8 participants through either a Community Coordinator agreement (with or without other activities) or as a sole activity through an agreement directly with an employer.

OF Self Employment (OF-SE)

OF-SE provides support to help persons with disabilities create jobs by starting a business. Participants may receive income support Footnote 3 and other supports, as well as technical and consultative support to help them assess their business concepts, prepare business plans and launch the enterprise.

Participants should provide evidence of their ability to personally invest – a minimum of 10% of the cost of the launch of the business -- in their business.

Examples of eligible OF-SE activities include:

  • information sessions to participants potentially interested in OF-SE
  • entrepreneurial training (offered by the contribution recipient or third parties)
  • workshops and coaching/mentoring activities to help participants develop and implement their business plan
  • orientation sessions to enable participants to assess risk, business viability, ability to cover costs, and personal suitability
  • mechanisms for independent review of the viability of the proposed business concepts and business plans
  • on-going group and individual mentoring and support as participants develop their businesses; and
  • post-participation follow-up and support

Eligible and ineligible business activities

Eligible business activities:

  • new business
  • part-time business (if appropriate given a participant’s capacity)
  • existing business in which the participant has had no prior ownership
  • conversion of a hobby to business
  • business that is seasonal in nature (participant must be able and prepared to devote full-time effort to business development and implementation); and
  • home-based business

Eligible business structures:

  • sole ownership, in which the OF-SE participant owns 100% of the business and has complete control
  • partnership, in which the partnership agreement demonstrates that the participant is a major decision-maker and has control of the venture
  • corporation/limited company, in which the participant holds the majority of voting shares
  • ownership or membership in a new worker cooperative; and
  • franchise (if they have some flexibility with respect to the operation of the franchise and making day-to-day business decisions)

Ineligible business activities:

  • business that is partially or entirely based on commission when it is acting as an agent of a parent company (e.g. real estate agent, insurance broker)
  • business that is currently in operation and open for business, in which the participant has ownership
  • business in which the participant previously had ownership
  • business previously, or currently, owned by the participant’s spouse, parent or child where the participant has had significant involvement in the management/decision-making processes
  • any activity that involves: sexual exploitation; illegal activity; the production of materials that promote hate, discrimination, or illegal activity; or, proselytizing of a particular religious or political opinion; and
  • not-for-profit organization that does not qualify as a business under Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations

Self-Employment is delivered through CC agreements and must include a minimum of 8 participants.

OF-Enhanced Employment Assistance Services (OF-EEAS)

OF-EEAS supports the provision of a mixture of activities (special services and interventions) tailored to meet the needs of persons with disabilities in order to facilitate their integration into employment. These services help individuals to prepare for, find, obtain and maintain employment.

Examples of Eligible OF-EEAS Activities include, but are not limited to:

  • labour market information and information on other employment-related resources
  • identification of barriers to employment for persons with disabilities, such as needs determination, vocational testing and diagnostic services
  • employment counselling services including: decision-making and learning strategies for individuals with barriers to employment, addressing issues during participation in interventions, and supporting employment maintenance once a participant has obtained a job
  • group sessions to help participants improve their job search capabilities
  • assistance in determining appropriate skills training
  • job placement services, including assistance to participants in choosing and applying for suitable job opportunities, preparing résumés and developing effective interview skills
  • employment preparation activities, such as pre-employment workshops; and
  • provision of job coaches, advisors, technical experts and teaching assistants to assist with integration into the workforce

Enhanced Employment Assistance Services cannot be the sole activity of an agreement, therefore must be delivered within a CC agreement to a minimum of 8 participants, and must be combined with an employment experience intervention (wage subsidy or self-employment).

Employer awareness

Funding can be provided for employer awareness projects to raise the profile of persons with disabilities within the employer community and to highlight the capabilities and skills of workers with disabilities. This may include working with the employer community to address barriers and increase employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Applicants are encouraged to explain how they will share lessons learned and successful models and tools to raise employer awareness. This activity must be used to promote the valuable contribution persons with disabilities make to the workforce, and is the only OF activity that is not participant-based.

Examples of awareness activities:

  • marketing skills inventories of unemployed persons with disabilities to employers experiencing labour shortages
  • information sessions supporting the hiring of persons with disabilities
  • events profiling businesses with positive hiring practices for persons with disabilities (could include testimonials from persons with disabilities who have successfully integrated into employment)
  • in support of larger events (such as those mentioned above), the production and distribution of information tools such as a brochure dispelling myths of hiring persons with disabilities, outlining accommodative strategies and providing success stories, or a video of success stories on the integration of individuals with disabilities into the workplace; and
  • any new or “innovative” method of raising employer awareness

Employer Awareness can be delivered as a stand-alone activity within a CC agreement.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance may be provided to cover a maximum of 80% of the costs associated with operating and delivering approved activities; contribution recipients are required to leverage (to include contributions {cash or in-kind} provided by project partners other than the Department) a minimum of 20% of total project costs (contribution recipients who are employers funding their own wage subsidy activities would be included as providing leveraging). For instance, if the total calculated budget for a project is $100,000, then the applicant (or other partners) is required to provide a minimum of $20,000 and $80,000 may be requested of the Department.

Costs may include:

  • overhead costs, including costs related to central administrative functions of the contribution recipient organization that are drawn upon to support agreement activities (such as shared postage, telephones, IT maintenance and head office support)
  • costs such as materials and supplies
  • wages and mandatory employment related costs for both participants and staff (MERCS)
  • honoraria and hospitality costs
  • printing and communication
  • travel
  • professional fees (e.g., consultants, research, audit, translation)
  • capital costs only for repairs or renovations to support the participation of persons with disabilities (capital costs for the construction of a building or the purchase of land or buildings are not eligible costs)
  • sub-agreement costs of contribution recipients that redistribute contributions; and
  • participant costs, such as costs for tuition for a course or program of instruction, living expenses Footnote 4 , expenses relating to specialized services, arrangements or equipment, dependent care, and disability accommodation

The requirement to leverage 20% of the total project cost may be waived if a project entails some form of social innovation (for further details, see Social Innovation)

Additional information

Expected results

Project outcomes should focus on the labour market participation of persons with disabilities and the level to which the Program helped them achieve greater employability and obtain employment. Expected results for Opportunities Fund projects should be listed under the following performance indicators:

  • the targeted number of participants to be served
  • the targeted number of participants who will become employed, or self-employed
  • the targeted number of participants who will return to school or stay in school; and
  • the targeted number of participants who will have enhanced their employability Footnote 5

For multi-year projects which include participants, post-participation follow-up and reporting must be included in your project activities. You must follow-up on the status of each participant a 6 and 12 months following the completion of their activity, and you must report these results to ESDC within the duration of your agreement. Follow-ups and consequent reporting should be directly related to the OF key performance indicators listed under Question 45 (see Develop your Proposal.)

Social innovation

The requirement to leverage 20% of the total project cost may be waived if a project entails some form of social innovation. If your project entails a social innovation, please provide a detailed description in Appendix – A of the Application for Funding (see Develop your Proposal).

For the purpose of the Program, ‘social innovation’ may encompass one or more of the following three (3) options: social partnerships, pay-for-performance, or social enterprise.

Social Partnerships: The concept of social partnerships involves the idea of recipient organizations collaborating with a variety of stakeholders (e.g. citizens, private-sector companies, governments) to: develop innovative ideas the results of which would exceed basic program expectations; increase the impact of federal spending (using less federal funding for the same or better results); increase the sustainability and self-sufficiency of expected project results; or, encourage volunteerism and the participation of people and organizations (including the business sector) in projects.

Pay-for-Performance: This process increases the focus on project activity outcomes by making the disbursement of payments dependent upon the achievement of pre-determined performance targets and/or outcomes.

A recipient organization would receive a reimbursement for some of the eligible project expenditures through the regular payment process (e.g. a fixed portion of the wage subsidy, all project overhead costs, or a percentage of total eligible project costs). The recipient would receive reimbursement of the remaining portion of eligible expenditures depending on the demonstration that the project achieved 100% of agreed upon performance expectations or milestones. The choice of the performance targets must be closely linked to OF objectives, for example, a participant remaining employed (or self-employed) post-intervention.

Social Enterprise: This concept refers to businesses operated by not-for-profit organisations that are directly involved in the sale of goods and/or services for the purpose of generating income, which is generally re-invested in the business, combined with social, cultural and/or environmental goals. Depending upon the type of social enterprise, they help in addressing social challenges by providing marginalized persons with learning and employment experiences.

An example of a social enterprise would be a not-for-profit recipient organization that employs homeless persons in a restaurant, thus providing them with skills and generating revenue to support the business.

Applicants should explain how the social innovation approach they chose will achieve expected results.

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