Ontario government reveals $17 billion aid package in response to coronavirus pandemic

Earlier this week, on March 25, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario government announced that it will be developing and implementing a $17-billion-dollar aid package that aims to support residents, businesses, and the vital health-care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in an emergency sitting at Queen’s Park, Finance Minister Rod Phillips announced the financial aid in his economic and fiscal update for the province. 

“COVID-19 is an extraordinary threat to the health and economy of Ontario– the greatest we’ve faced in my lifetime. It demands an extraordinary response from all levels of government and civil society because we’re all in this together.” said the Finance Minister.

The $17-billion package that the Finance Minister discussed will be divided into two parts: a $7 billion-dollar package in direct support and a $10 billion-dollar package in business tax and other tax-related deferrals. 

While the financial assistance package is still awaiting approval in the legislature, it was mentioned that the health care sector will be receiving upwards of $3.3 billion in assistance. The majority of this funding is the government’s direct response to fighting against the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the funding was previously announced under a $304 million plan set aside for an immediate response to COVID-19. 

A breakdown of the healthcare-related measures are as follows: 

  • $1 billion contingency fund to respond to emerging issues related to fighting the virus
  • $935 million in funding for hospitals (increasing capacity, creating more COVID-19 assessment centres, adding critical care beds) 
  • $124 million for transitional projects (spaces to house less serious hospital patients)
  • $243 million to provide emergency long-term care beds and virus containment measures
  • $80 million for paramedic services 
  • $100 million in funding for public health units 
  • $75 million for personal protective equipment for frontline workers

Other measures to support Canadians and businesses include:

  • $3.7 billion to residents and businesses in direct support, including targeted initiatives aimed at different populations
  • The measures also include a one-time payment for parents of $200 per child 12 years old and under. Parents with a disabled child, the benefit is $250. This helps offset costs of school and daycare closures which costs about $337 million to the province.
  • Doubling Guaranteed Annual Income payments for low-income seniors and suspending student loan payments for six months.
  • Corporations see $6 billion in provincial business tax interest and penalty relief for five months. 
  • $355 million spendings for a temporary increase in the Employer Health Tax exemption for companies that pay less than $1 million in payroll.
  • $1.9 billion is being spent to allow for a deferral of WSIB premiums for up to six months.
  • Deferral of municipal remittance of education property tax to school boards, allowing municipalities to provide property tax deferrals to residents and businesses, which costs about $1.8 billion.

Ontario is projecting zero percent real GDP growth in 2020.

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