Ontario announces $17 billion provincial aid in response to coronavirus

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips announces $17 billion in spending to fight COVID-19's health and economic costs. CP

Families will get a one-time payment of $200 per child up to the age of 12, to help parents keep their children engaged during an extended time away from school or daycare.

The outlook provided was much gloomier than the one presented in the province's fall update a year ago, which forecast a deficit of $6.7 billion in 2020-21, and economic growth of 1.5 per cent.

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.

An increase of $160 million in public health funding to support COVID-19 monitoring, surveillance, and laboratory and home testing, while also investing in virtual care and Telehealth Ontario.

The government says $594 million of that funding is meant to accelerate work to address capacity issues which have plagued the system for years.

Investments of $2.1-billion in new measures related to COVID-19, $1.2 billion to improve health-care system.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government unveiled a $17-billion plan Wednesday to protect businesses, households and public services from the financial fallout of the novel coronavirus, which the province predicts will bring economic growth to a screeching halt this year.

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

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

The province is also proposing to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months.

As well, businesses will get five months of interest and penalty relief to file and make payments for provincially administered taxes, at an estimated cost of $6 billion, employers will be allowed to defer Workplace Safety and Insurance Board payments, at a cost of $1.9 billion, and about $1.8 billion will be used to defer municipal remittance of education property tax to school boards, allowing municipalities to provide property tax deferrals to residents and businesses.

"Far too many workers, families and small businesses were already struggling to stay afloat before the COVID-19 pandemic", said Horwath.

The provision of $9 million in direct support for families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for non-payment during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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.

Students will see OSAP payments loan payments suspended for six months. There will be a 10 per cent corporate tax credit for regions where there's lagging employment growth.

As well, there will be $26 million provided 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.

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.

With economic activity constrained, revenue is forecast to dip slightly to C$156.3 billion in the coming fiscal year, while program expenses are seen rising to C$161.1 billion from C$153.1 billion in 2019-20. The government will provide regular updates of the Province's fiscal and economic outlook throughout the year. Phillips has also committed to releasing a full multi-year budget by November 15, 2020.

Ontario is projecting zero per cent real GDP growth in 2020, a net-debt-to-GDP ratio of 41.7 per cent in 2020-21 - up from 39.9 per cent - and a ballooning net debt from $355 billion to almost $380 billion. This responsible approach will allow the government to continue assessing the economic situation and put forward a long-term outlook based on the most recent and reliable data.



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