August 12, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced the first round of the Safe Restart Agreement’s emergency funding for Ontario municipalities. This first round of funding will provide municipalities with up to $1.6 billion to continue delivering critical public services for residents.
Premier Ford was joined by Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips, Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA), Kinga Surma, and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Jim McDonell.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford responded to questions from media regarding the province’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier today, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips released Ontario’s 2020-21 first quarter finances and an update to Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19.
First Round of Emergency Funding for Ontario Municipalities
This afternoon, Premier Ford, Associate Minister Surma, and MPP McDonell announced the first round of emergency funding for Ontario municipalities, totalling $1.6 billion, as part of the federal-provincial-territorial Safe Restart Agreement. This funding will enable Ontario’s municipalities to continue delivering critical public services for residents and will be flexible to allow municipalities to address their own unique challenges.
The first round of funding will be broken down as follows:
- $660 million for transit systems – This funding will be used to provide immediate relief from transit pressures, such as lower ridership, as well as for new costs due to COVID-19, including enhanced cleaning and masks for staff. A base amount, plus a ridership-based allocation, will be provided to Ontario’s 110 municipalities with transit systems.
- $695 million to help municipalities address operating pressures related to COVID-19 – This funding will flow to all municipalities in September and will be allocated on a per-household basis. Funding will be shared 50/50 between upper- and lower-tier municipalities.
- $212 million through the Social Services Relief Fund – This funding will be provided to municipal service managers and Indigenous housing partners to help protect vulnerable people from COVID-19. Funding can be used to protect homeless shelter staff and residents, expand rent support programming and create long-term housing solutions.
In the second phase of funding, the following will also be available:
- Additional allocations to municipal transit systems based on expenses incurred, to ensure the funding meets the needs of municipalities. To qualify for additional transit funding, municipalities must work with the province to develop shared transit objectives.
- Up to $695 million for eligible municipalities, after municipalities have provided the province with information on their estimated COVID-19-related financial pressures.
Ontario First Quarter Finances
This morning, Minister Phillips released Ontario’s 2020-21 first quarter finances and an update to Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19.
The government’s continued and budgeted investments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have risen to $30 billion, up from the $17 billion originally announced in Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, on March 25, 2020. Additional investments include:
- An increase of $4.4 billion, for a total of $7.7 billion, to provide support for health care. This includes building hospital capacity, preventing and containing the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care, improving testing, and purchasing personal protective equipment and medical supplies.
- An increase of $7.3 billion, for a total of $11.0 billion, to support people and jobs. This includes temporary pandemic pay for eligible frontline workers, targeted funding to support municipal governments and transit agencies, and relief for electricity consumers.
The government is now projecting a deficit of $38.5 billion for 2020-21.
Ontario’s next fiscal update will be a multi-year provincial Budget, which will be delivered no later than November 15, 2020.
Questions from Media
Updated Deficit Projection
In response to questions about Ontario’s updated deficit projection, Premier Ford said that the government’s priority is to continue protecting the people of Ontario and the province’s small businesses. He would not speculate on the need for future program cuts or tax increases to reduce the deficit.
When asked whether the government should seek a new mandate from voters in order to continue spending at the levels necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Ford reassured Ontarians that while the government’s original mandate did not account for a pandemic, there continues to be a prudent fiscal plan. The government is ensuring that the health care sector is supported and that a reserve is set aside in the event of a second wave. Premier Ford committed to continuing to be accountable by demonstrating where taxpayer dollars are flowing.
On the topic of Ontario’s back-to-school plan, Premier Ford said that the government’s priorities are to continue to listen to teachers, parents and students, and to be flexible while moving forward.
In response to questions on hiring ahead of the school year, Premier Ford said that the government has put a call out to fill the 500 in-school public health nurse positions, and hopes to do so without draining nurses from the health care system. He added that a fund of $30 million has been put in place to hire more educators, as well as $50 million for hiring more custodians.
Premier Ford also shared that Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, would be making an additional announcement on schools in the near future. According to Premier Ford, this will be a “positive announcement for teachers and students.”