Doug Ford announces $300M support fund for businesses affected by shutdown
At 12:01 a.m. tonight, thousands of businesses across Ontario will be forced to shut down (or severely restrict operations) for a minimum of 28 days in response to a surge in rates of COVID-19 transmission.
All gyms, movie theatres, casinos, tourist attractions, indoor dining areas and more are mandated to close under the province's modified version of Stage 2, but only in the regions of Toronto, Peel and Ottawa due to their higher than average case counts.
Jobs and entire businesses will inevitably be lost — something Premier Doug Ford is keenly aware of.
"I get around quite often, around the province, talking, and everyone seems to have my number, and they're calling all night saying please help us," said Ford of small business owners struggling amid the pandemic during his daily press conference on Friday.
"That hits you in the heart, believe me. Trying to help these people that work day in and day out, work 18 hours, and they're holding on, and I get this news. And I'm the guy who makes the decision. Talk about weighing on you," he continued.
"You have no idea, and it's tough, but I want to tell them we're there to support them — we will get through it, we'll get through this together."
In that vein, the Ford government announced today that it will make $300 million available to assist "significantly affected businesses with fixed costs, including property taxes, hydro and natural gas bills."
"Since the outset of the pandemic the government has recognized that the health and safety of the people of Ontario must come first, while supporting workers and business-owners during this unprecedented global pandemic," said Finance Minister Rod Phillips in a release announcing the news.
"Ontario will build on the historic collaboration with the Government of Canada to ensure workers are protected, businesses are supported, and that this support arrives as soon as possible."
The Premier's Office says this financial support will come from the province directly and that it will be available in any region where modified Stage 2 measures have been implemented. More details are expected in the coming days.
Ford has been vocal in recent days about how much he was considering small business owners when weighing the pros and cons of shutting down any sector of the economy.
"I have to see the evidence before I take someone's livelihood away from them and shut their lives down," said the premier on Monday, noting that the "overwhelmingly vast majority" of restaurants in Ontario are already following enhanced COVID protocols.
"That's a huge, huge decision that weights on my shoulders and my team's shoulders, and it's tough," he said. "I want to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin someone's life."
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