November 30, 2020, Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips, and Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced the opening of the application process for Ontario’s Support for Learners program. This program was announced in the province’s 2020 Budget, and builds on the earlier Support for Families initiative which provided one-time funding to eligible parents throughout the spring and summer.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Lecce responded to questions from media regarding the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the weekend, two new voluntary management agreements were approved by the Ministry of Long-Term Care for long-term care homes in Scarborough and Richmond Hill. As a result, Scarborough Health Network will provide enhanced support to Rockcliffe Care Community in Scarborough, and Mackenzie Health will provide enhanced support to Langstaff Square Care Community in Richmond Hill. The purpose of the voluntary management agreements is to address the spread of COVID-19 and stabilize operations in these two facilities. The agreements will remain in effect for 90 days, but may be extended if necessary.
Support for Learners Applications Open
This afternoon, Premier Ford, Minister Phillips, and Minister Lecce announced the opening of the application process for the Support for Learners program.
Through the Support for Learners program, Ontario will provide direct one-time payments to parents and guardians to help offset additional learning costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents or guardians will be eligible to receive this benefit regardless of whether their children are currently learning in school or online. Funds can support parents with the costs of education expenses, as well as with additional child care costs.
The Support for Leaners program was announced in the 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover, and builds on the earlier Support for Families initiative. Like the earlier initiative, through the Support for Learners program, Ontario parents or guardians are eligible to receive a one-time payment of $200 for each child aged 0 to 12, or $250 for each child or youth aged 0 to 21 with special needs.
Beginning today, and until January 15, 2021, eligible parents or guardians can apply online at the Support for Learners webpage.
Questions from Media
Learning Gap from COVID-19 School Closures
Minister Lecce was asked about reports of emerging evidence of a learning gap, particularly related to students falling behind in reading, as a result of COVID-19 school closures during the 2019-20 school year. In response, Minister Lecce said that he was “very aware” of this situation, and confirmed that the government is planning to strengthen summer school learning opportunities for summer 2021.
Thorncliffe Park Public School
In response to questions about asymptomatic testing at Thorncliffe Park Public School in East York, which confirmed 19 additional cases of COVID-19, Minister Lecce explained that a benefit of asymptomatic testing is that it provides the government with better data to further understand the spread of COVID-19 in schools and to inform next steps. He added that while the per cent positivity rate in the surrounding community was 16%, the rate within Thorncliffe Park Public School was 4%, which he said is indicative of the success “layers of protection” have had within schools.
When asked about COVID-19 vaccines and their expected arrival in Canada, Premier Ford reiterated his call on the federal government to provide clear information regarding the number and type of vaccines which will be allotted to Ontario, as well as a timeline. Premier Ford added that he would be speaking to the CEO of Pfizer today for information on “when Ontario can expect [its] fair share” of vaccines.