TORONTO -- The Ontario government is launching a new online portal to help people who have lost their jobs in industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton made the announcement at a news conference Friday, saying the new action centre will help support up to 7,000 unemployed tourism and hospitality workers.

"Things are still tough for a lot of people in our province now. The hospitality sector has been particularly hit very hard,” McNaughton said.

“UNITE HERE Local 75, which represents workers in the sector, tell us that 90 per cent of their members have been laid off and that's why we have to step in and act."

The union represents workers in hotels, restaurants, racetracks, casinos, laundry and food service companies, airport concessions and apparel, textile and general manufacturing and distribution centers.

The virtual action centre is expected to support laid-off and unemployed workers by offering online counselling, stress management and mental health resources, immediate health and safety training and technical skills training.

“We are investing almost $2 million to create a virtual action centre to help impacted workers upgrade their skills as we gradually and safely reopen the economy,” Ford said.

“This skills training will ensure these people can get back to work with the skills and know-how to help businesses adapt to the new environment."

The government also announced a grant program to support apprentices in the motive power sector, the construction and industrial sector and the service sector trades to help them purchase equipment needed to ”start their careers”

"As more construction gets going, we are making sure our skills trade people are set up for success, making sure they have the tools they need,” Ford said.

“This summer, we are launching the all-new Ontario Tools Grant program – a program that will help up to 11,600 apprentices get a head start in their careers in skills trade."

The premier said the province is also forgiving more than $10 million in outstanding loans owed by apprentices for tool purchases made previously.

“This represents about $500 back in the pockets of 19,000 apprentices for new tools, equipment, clothing and manuals,” Ford said.

"We are doing everything we can to help."