TORONTO -- Ontario is setting aside $1.2 billion in funding to help the province’s hospitals deal with financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ford government announced on Monday.

Premier Doug Ford and Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ontario’s finance minister and president of the Treasury Board, made the announcement at a news conference in Scarborough on Monday afternoon.

"Hospitals have been at the centre of the pandemic from day one providing excellent care for our sick and vulnerable, and responding to the various outbreaks without hesitation," Ford said in a written statement released today.

"Clearly, this additional care comes at a cost, so as a government we must step up and support them. We need to ensure that our hospitals remain viable and are there for people long after COVID-19 has been beaten."

The province says close to $697 million will be used to help with historic working funds deficits for eligible public hospitals, with a special focus on small, medium, and specialty hospitals, including rehabilitation facilities.

Another $572.3 million will be allocated to reimburse qualifying portions of other revenue losses, such as co-payments for private rooms and a reduction of retail services.

The funding announcement comes two days before the provincial government is set to release its 2021 budget.

“Our government second pandemic budget will focus on protecting people's health, and supporting people and job creators who are continuing to struggle during these tough times,” Bethlenfalvy said on Monday.

“We've been fighting COVID-19 for a year now. Our budget will finish the job we started last year. And as I always say, you cannot have a healthy economy without healthy people supporting the financial stability of hospitals across the province isn't just necessary for our health.”