Provincial Ontario Unveils $17 Billion Covid-19 Response News Centre

Daniel Fowler
March 26, 2020

Ontario will spend $17 billion dollars over the next year, record a $20.5 billion deficit and will set aside an unprecedented $2.5 billion dollars for emergency spending, allowing the province to battle the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"During this outbreak, we've been particularly concerned about seniors because we know that COVID-19 is more unsafe for them and those with underlying health conditions", Phillips said.

"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". "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 province is also investing $935 million for the hospital sector, including $594 million to accelerate progress on the government's commitment to address capacity issues, as well as $341 million for an additional 1,000 acute care and 500 critical care beds and additional assessment centres.

Some of the funding was previously announced under a $304-million COVID-19 immediate response plan.

$75 million to supply personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to front-line staff.

"What we've done, though, is made sure that the province has the financial firepower in terms of the reserves and in terms of the investments that we need to make that the province will be able to weather whatever is on the horizon", he said.

Ontario will also offer families with children locked out of school and daycares $200 per child, hike payments for low-income seniors and reduce hydro bills. For companies that pay less than $1 million in payroll, the province is spending $355 million for a temporary increase in the Employer Health Tax exemption.

The Ontario government also said it would provide emergency child care options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers.

"Many Ontarians are at their financial breaking point".

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Meanwhile, the government said student loan repayments, under OSAP, would be suspended for six months during the COVID-19 crisis. There will be a 10 per cent corporate tax credit for regions where there's lagging employment growth.

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-free relief for businesses to file and make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes.

The Ontario government is also deferring required property tax payments municipalities make to school boards for three months, noting it will represent $1.8 billion in savings.

While the NDP has said its members will support the financial statement bill, Horwath said the Ford government needs to do more to ensure people are not in financial turmoil and prevent some businesses from going under.

The Ontario government's updated economic forecast, which it said is subject to a "greater-than-usual" level of uncertainty, assumes zero growth in the province in 2020 and two per cent growth in 2021.

As of today, the province said it is projecting a deficit of $9.2 billion in 2019-20, and as a result of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is planning for a deficit of $20.5 billion in 2020-21.

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.

If the reserve, the largest in the province's history, is not used then the deficit drops to $18 billion this upcoming fiscal year.

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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