Ontario will spend $17B over the next year to help battle COVID-19 pandemic
TORONTO -- Ontario will spend $17 billion dollars over the next year, record a $20.5 billion deficit and will set aside an unprecedented $2.5 billion dollars for emergency spending, allowing the province to battle the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Progressive Conservative government unveiled an action plan designed to tackle the growing health and financial crisis due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, including new measures for frontline health care workers, and support for businesses, seniors and families.
The new spending will also include:
- $3.3 billion on the health care system, including $1.2 billion on improvements
- $3.7 billion on support for people and jobs, including $2 billion in targeted supports, and $290 million in tax measures
- $10 billion in support for businesses, including $6 billion in tax deferrals affecting 100,000 businesses.
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the new measures are necessary to deal with the “extraordinary threat” to the health and economy of the province.
“It demands an extraordinary response from all levels of government and civil society because we’re all in this together,” Phillips said.
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.
- $1 billion contingency fund specifically for healthcare
- $341 million for hospital capacity to increase assessments
- $243 million emergency funding for long-term care homes to contain the spread of COVID-19
- $100 million for public health units
- $170 million for community care capacity and Telehealth Ontario
- $62 million for health care workers in assessment centres, hospitals and community
- $75 million for new personal protective equipment for health care workers
- $80 million for ambulance and paramedic services
- $70 million for new infection control measures in retirement homes and emergency shelters
- $1.2 billion will be spent on improving services in health and long-term care homes.
The government will also spend $3.7 billion dollars to help the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the pandemic – from families forced to stay at home in self-isolation, to those who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic shock.
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 $340 million initiative would be available on Apr. 6 through an online portal where parents could apply.
The government will also spend $3 million dollar per day to offer free emergency daycare for frontline healthcare workers and first responders.
Meanwhile, the government said student loan repayments, under OSAP, would be suspended for six months during the COVID-19 crisis.
As businesses face a major financial hit due to forced COVID-19 closures, the government will spend $6 billion in tax deferrals this fiscal year giving owners up to five months – Aug. 31, 2020 – to pay their provincial taxes.
The government says the exemptions would apply to: Employer Health tax; Tobacco tax; Fuel tax; Gas tax; Beer, Wine and Spirits tax; Mining tax; Insurance Premium tax; International Fuel Tax and the Race Tracks tax.
The government expects to help roughly 100,000 businesses with the program and projected that businesses would collectively save $25 million in interest and penalties.
COVID-19 is expected to carve out $5.8 billion dollars from the province’s revenue stream in 2020-21, largely due to drops in personal income and corporate tax revenue, and due to the closure of casinos operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation.
To ensure the province can withstand the economic blow, the Progressive Conservative government – which has been focused on fiscal prudence and restraint – will record a massive $20.5-billion deficit in the year 2020-2021.
The massive deficit figure is comparable to the financial crisis of 2008 when the government, under then-Premier Dalton McGuinty, spent $24-billion dollars to stabilize the economy.
While the government acknowledges that the COVID-19 outbreak has “significantly impacted” Ontario’s economy – which the government said recorded strong growth before the pandemic – the fiscal document states that the economy should turn around in the second half of 2020.
“Pent up demand for goods and services along with and improving labour market would add momentum, supporting stronger consumer spending,” the fiscal document reads. “However, some sectors will take longer to recover.”
In his remarks to the Ontario legislature on Wednesday, Phillips called COVID-19 a generation defining moment that requires a non-partisan approach to financial stability.
“And we are confident that every dollar we invest through this action plan that saves a life or saves a job is a dollar well spent.”