TORONTO -- Toronto Mayor John Tory is proposing that an additional $8 million be spent on community programs “in the areas of the city hit hardest by COVID-19” as part of the city’s 2021 budget.

The city is already balancing its budget on the basis of $856 million in assumed funding from other levels of government but Tory plans to move a motion at executive committee today to add $8 million in additional spending in 2021 and pay for it using a one-time dividend from the Toronto Parking Authority.

The biggest chunk of the money – about $3 million – would go towards providing about 400 more young people with access to an existing youth jobs and training program. Meanwhile, $2 million would go towards helping community partners in hard-hit neighbourhoods provide additional mental health supports and another $2 million would go towards expanding internet access in Toronto Community Housing buildings as part of the city’s ConnectTO initiative. The final $1 million would be set aside for supporting small businesses and ensuring that there is a “robust marketing campaign” when many of them are permitted to reopen.

“This $8 million in additional investments in youth jobs, mental health supports, lower income internet access and main street businesses are all focused on the areas in the city hardest hit by COVID-19,” Tory said during a news conference at city hall on Thursday morning. “I believe these immediate investments will make a difference in the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and focus on areas where we as a municipal government can make a difference.”

Tory said that he is proud of the “extensive work” that the city has already undertaken to support areas of the city where COVID-19 transmission has been higher due to a prevalence of essential workers.

He said that the additional investments he is proposing simply “expends and complements the array of programs already in place.”

As for the nearly $900 million shortfall in the city’s budget, Tory said that he remains hopeful that other levels of government will come to the table to help the city cover it’s pandemic-related losses, as was the case in 2020.

“I think the conversation I had with the Prime Minister yesterday was extremely encouraging in that regard and similar conversations I have had with other federal officials would have me believe that if we keep at it we are going to get some measure of support from them and that is the ideal circumstances that we much prefer (rather than drawing on reserves),” he said.

Staff previously said that they embarked upon this year’s budget process facing a staggering $2.2 billion shortfall but were able to reduce that number after finding $573 million in efficiencies, including tens of millions of dollars from freezing the salaries of non-unionized employees.

The remaining $1.6 billion in financial pressures related to the pandemic can be offset through $740 million in Safe Restart funding that has already been secured and the $856 million in assumed funding that the city hopes to receive from other levels of government in 2021.