Health care, jobs, businesses focus of $17B provincial aid package

Ontario sees wider budget deficit as it provides C$17 bln coronavirus aid

Ontario unveils $17-billion coronavirus plan, foresees zero economic growth in 2020

The Ontario government will more than double the size of its current deficit to $20.5-billion in 2020-21, as it spends billions on health care, tax deferrals and payments for people affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The provincial treasury is now expecting $3.5 billion less in revenue than estimated in last year's budget and COVID-19 is expected to have an overall negative impact on revenues of $5.8 billion in 2020-12.

Included is $75 million in additional support for 194,000 low-income seniors, a one-time $200 payment per child to help families pay for extra costs associated with the closure of schools and daycares and $9 million to help families pay their energy bills.

As well, another $1.2 billion will go towards meeting the demand for services in the health and long-term care sector.

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips had been expected to release a full budget Wednesday, but chose to instead release an economic and fiscal update in light of the rapidly changing financial picture.

During a fiscal update, this afternoon at Queen's Park, Finance Minister Rod Phillips announced a $17-billion aid package with $7-billion in direct supports and $10-billion in business and other tax deferrals.

The new spending includes $3.3-billion for the health-care system, with $2.1-billion for "outbreak response measures" for hospitals, long-term care and public health, as well as a $1-billion COVID contingency fund.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the government is confident that every dollar invested through the plan that saves a life or a job is a dollar well spent. But I will never forget...hearing cheers from nearby porches and balconies along the street for the front-line health-care workers at Ajax-Pickering hospital. "Long after we defeat COVID-19, the Ontario spirit, at home in Ajax and across Ontario, will remain". Eligibility will be expanded for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program, with an additional $9 million going to breaks on energy bills. "People need help. People need help now". Many Ontarians are at their financial breaking point.

Enhancing funding by $148 million for charitable and non-profit social services organizations such as food banks, homeless shelters, churches and emergency services to improve their ability to respond to COVID-19, by providing funding directly to Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Service Administration Boards who would allocate this funding based on local needs.

Providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief for students, leaving more money in people's pockets. "And small businesses can't use a tax credit if they have no cash coming in".

Providing additional supports of $26 million to Indigenous peoples and communities, including emergency assistance for urban Indigenous people in financial need, and costs for health care professionals and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations.

Making available $6 billion by providing five months of interest and penalty relief for businesses to file and make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes.

The Ford government says there will also be $1.9 billion freed up for companies by allowing them to defer payment of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board premiums for up to six months.

"We're taking responsible steps to lessen the burden for businesses and people", said Minister Phillips. The government will provide regular updates of the Province's fiscal and economic outlook throughout the year.

"Wednesday's measures will help provide additional relief to employers and employees and build upon previous actions introduced, such as lowering electricity rates, extending the ban on electricity disconnection for households and small businesses, and important changes to the Employment Standards Act to protect workers".

The latest projections out of Ontario were part of a mini-budget of sorts, as Phillips and Ontario's Progressive Conservative government were forced to delay tabling a full budget until November amid all the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.

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