Ontario will spend additional $17 billion to fight the coronavirus

  • Ontario will spend additional $17 billion to fight the coronavirus

Ontario will spend additional $17 billion to fight the coronavirus

The majority of the focus will be on Ontario's healthcare system, which has been inundated with pandemic-related cases, with $3.3 billion in spending.

New spending measures mean the province projects a deficit of $9.2 billion in 2019-20, an improvement of $1.1 billion relative to the 2019 budget, but will rise to $20.5 billion in 2020-21.

The financial update came the same day many businesses that are deemed un-essential were forced to close their doors to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

The Ontario government tabled an interim economic update that pledges $10-billion in tax deferrals mostly for businesses and $7-billion in new spending on health care and payments to seniors and parents as the province battles COVID-19.

In a stark assessment of the province's finances, Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips released an economic update on Wednesday in the place of a full-blown budget his government abandoned as the new coronavirus ravaged the world's economies.

In other moves aimed at helping people as the crisis deepens, the government is providing more money for low-income seniors by doubling the Guaranteed Annual Income System for six months and providing parents with a one-time payment of $200 for each child under 13 and $250 for special-needs children.

$1.2 billion will be spent on improving services in health and long-term care homes.

According to a release issued by the Ministry of Health, the plan includes a $1-billion COVID-19 contingency fund and an unprecedented $2.5-billion reserve, along with another contingency or $1.3 billion. 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.

Public health, at the frontline of efforts to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19, will receive an additional $160 million in part to pay for laboratory and home testing but also to support the publicly-funded vaccines program.

The second part of the aid package will provide $3.7 billion to help people and jobs.

Investing $75 million to supply personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to front-line staff to tackle COVID-19.

Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption.

Providing $9 million in direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring that their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for nonpayment during the COVID-19 outbreak. "COVID-19 is our moment".

To meet the challenge, Ontario is proposing to make $6 billion in liquidity available to businesses by giving firms a five-month holiday from penalties and interest for missed provincial tax filings and payments. "And small businesses can't use a tax credit if they have no cash coming in".

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.

The province will also spend $341 million to provide an additional 1,000 acute-care beds and 500 critical-care beds.

"We're taking responsible steps to lessen the burden for businesses and people", said Minister Phillips.

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

"It demands an extraordinary response from all levels of government and civil society because we're all in this together", Phillips said.