Ontario is investing $17 billion in a COVID-19 aid package
As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on economies and healthcare systems around the world, the Ontario government has announced a $17 billion aid package to help hospitals, people and businesses in the province.
The provincial government announced the new action plan late Wednesday, calling it "a first step" in the response to COVID-19.
The package is separated into two parts: $7 billion in direct aid for the healthcare system, people and jobs, as well as $10 billion in support for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals.
Today, our Government released the Ontario Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. In response to this pandemic these first steps will invest in our health care system and provide direct support for people, jobs and employers. https://t.co/V17aLsM2gC pic.twitter.com/Ppp5ZeRPo8— Doug Ford (@fordnation) March 25, 2020
"This $17 billion response is a critical first step to ensure our health care system, communities and economy are positioned to weather the challenges ahead," reads a news release from the government of Ontario.
The aid package includes a variety of measures aimed at helping Ontario's healthcare system, including a dedicated $1 billion COVID-19 contingency fund for emerging needs related to the outbreak, an investment of $935 million for the hospital sector, an increase in public health funding by $160 million, an added $243 million for the long-term care sector and $75 million to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) and critical medical supplies to front-line staff battling the virus.
"As Finance Minister, my number one priority right now is ensuring that our front-line health care professionals have the resources they need to fight the COVID-19 outbreak," said Finance Minister Rod Phillips in a statement.
"The people of Ontario can have confidence that we will do whatever it takes to protect their health and well-being. These additional resources will enhance hospital capacity, protect our loved ones in long-term care, and support our public health officials' work to flatten the curve and slow the spread."
The action plan announced by @RodPhillips01 today demonstrates that Ontario’s government will spend whatever it takes to support the health of Ontarians and the health of our economy. #COVID19 #CanLab #OnPoli— Smokey Thomas (@OPSEUSmokey) March 25, 2020
The package also includes $3.7 billion to directly support people and protect jobs.
It features a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, or $250 for those with special needs, to help families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures.
The action plan also includes a proposal to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months, $5.6 billion for electricity cost relief programs in 2020-21, $355 million in tax cuts for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption and $9 million in direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).
Payments to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will also be deferred for six months interest-free, and anyone working on the front lines will be provided with emergency child care options.
"During this global pandemic, I want the people of Ontario to be focused on their health — not worrying about losing their job or how to make ends meet as they deal with unexpected additional expenses," Phillips continued.
"We are helping make life a little more manageable for every person in Ontario, while providing additional support to those who need it the most."
The Ontario government is also promising to expand access to the emergency assistance program administered by Ontario Works to provide financial support to people facing economic hardship and help support regions lagging in employment growth with a proposed new Corporate Income Tax Credit.
Additionally, they're investing $148 million in charitable and non-profit social services organizations such as food banks, homeless shelters, churches and emergency services as well as providing additional supports of $26 million to Indigenous peoples and communities.
They're also helping businesses through several tax and other deferrals to improve cash flows over the coming months.
We are making $10 billion available to improve cash flows for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals in the coming months. This will provide real economic relief during this challenging time. https://t.co/V17aLsM2gC pic.twitter.com/kPKNTR2ErM— Doug Ford (@fordnation) March 25, 2020
"We're taking responsible steps to lessen the burden for businesses and people," said Phillips. "Together, these actions can free up as much as $10 billion in cash flows for businesses and people in these uncertain times, helping protect jobs and household budgets."
The Ontario government is planning for a deficit of $20.5 billion in 2020–21 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and they're set to release a multi-year provincial budget by November 15.
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