New as of March 25
Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 – Additional Health Care Resources and Support for People, Jobs and Employers
Today, Finance Minister Rod Phillips released Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 (March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update).
The government’s action plan is a first step in its response to COVID-19 and includes $7 billion in additional resources for the health care system and direct support for people and jobs. It also will make available $10 billion in support for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals to improve their cash flow, protecting jobs and household budgets.
This $17 billion response is a critical first step to ensure our health care system, communities and economy are positioned to weather the challenges ahead. The plan includes historic levels of prudence, including a dedicated $1 billion COVID-19 contingency fund, as part of the additional health care investments, as well as an unprecedented $2.5 billion reserve and an increased contingency fund of $1.3 billion to provide continued flexibility to respond to changing global circumstances.
The plan includes $3.3 billion in additional health care resources to protect the health and well-being of the people of Ontario.
- Committing to a dedicated $1.0 billion COVID-19 contingency fund for emerging needs related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Investing $935 million for the hospital sector, including $594 million to accelerate progress on the government’s commitment to address capacity issues, as well as $341 million for an additional 1,000 acute care and 500 critical care beds and additional assessment centres.
- Increasing public health funding by $160 million to support COVID-19 monitoring, surveillance, and laboratory and home testing, while also investing in virtual care and Telehealth Ontario.
- Investing $243 million for surge capacity in the long-term care sector, as well as funding for 24/7 screening, more staffing to support infection control, and supplies and equipment to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Investing $75 million to supply personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to front-line staff to tackle COVID-19.
As part of the action plan, the Province also announced $3.7 billion to directly and urgently support people and to protect jobs.
Key initiatives in the government’s plan to strengthen its response to the COVID-19 outbreak and support people, families, workers and employers include:
People and Jobs
- Helping families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures during the COVID-19 outbreak by providing a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including children enrolled in private schools.
- Proposing to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months.
- Supporting more affordable electricity bills for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers, by providing approximately $5.6 billion for electricity cost relief programs in 2020-21, which is an increase of approximately $1.5 billion compared to the 2019 Budget plan.
- Further supporting more affordable electricity bills by setting electricity prices for residential, farm and small business time-of-use customers at the lowest rate, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day for 45 days to support ratepayers in their increased daytime electricity usage as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, addressing concerns about time-of-use metering.
- Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption.
- Providing $9 million in direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring that their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for nonpayment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Providing emergency child care options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers.
- Expanding access to the emergency assistance program administered by Ontario Works to provide financial support to people facing economic hardship and help more people meet basic needs such as food and rent during this public health emergency.
- Enhancing funding by $148 million for charitable and non-profit social services organizations such as food banks, homeless shelters, churches and emergency services to improve their ability to respond to COVID-19, by providing funding directly to Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Service Administration Boards who would allocate this funding based on local needs.
- Providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief for students, leaving more money in people’s pockets.
- Helping to support regions lagging in employment growth with a proposed new Corporate Income Tax Credit, the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit.
- Providing additional supports of $26 million to Indigenous peoples and communities, including emergency assistance for urban Indigenous people in financial need, and costs for health care professionals and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations.
The government’s plan also includes measures that will make available $10 billion in support for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals to improve their cash flows over the coming months, including:
- Making available $6 billion by providing five months of interest and penalty relief for businesses to file and make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes.
- Over $1.8 billion by deferring the upcoming June 30 quarterly municipal remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days, which will provide municipalities the flexibility to, in turn, provide property tax deferrals to residents and businesses, while ensuring school boards continue to receive their funding.
- Making available $1.9 billion by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) allowing employers to defer payments for up to six months.
To further contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario Government has ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces effective as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. This closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this order as the situation evolves. A full list of businesses are listed here: List of Essential Workplaces
Essential services may continue their operations to maintain supply chains and ensure the people of Ontario have access to necessities, including groceries, medicines and other essential products while still complying with public health guidelines.
Businesses who have questions about closures of at-risk workplaces or how emergency measures impact their business or employment can call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.
Help is available from Monday to Sunday, from 8:30 a.m.―5:00 p.m.
The Government of Canada is taking strong, immediate and effective action to protect Canadians and the economy from the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic. No Canadian should have to choose between protecting their health, putting food on the table, paying for their medication or caring for a family member.
To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the government has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB would be a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
The CERB would cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).
Additionally, workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19, would also qualify for the CERB. This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times, while ensuring they preserve the ability to quickly resume operations as soon as it becomes possible.
The EI system was not designed to process the unprecedented high volume of applications received in the past week. Given this situation, all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, would be able to receive the CERB to ensure they have timely access to the income support they need.
Canadians who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits as of today would continue to receive their benefits and should not apply to the CERB. If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, they could apply for the CERB once their EI benefits cease, if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose application has not yet been processed would not need to reapply. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.
The government is working to get money into the pockets of Canadians as quickly as possible. The portal for accessing the CERB would be available in early April. EI eligible Canadians who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits.
Canadians would begin to receive their CERB payments within 10 days of application. The CERB would be paid every four weeks and be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.
This benefit would be one part of the government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, to support Canadian workers and businesses and help stabilize the economy by helping Canadians pay for essentials like housing and groceries, and helping businesses pay their employees and bills during this unprecedented time of global uncertainty.
We know many residents are heeding the advice to stay at home and limit non-essential outings, and I am grateful that they are following public advice. I recognize that this is a difficult time for all of us, and the unpredictability can be stressful. Thank you to everyone in our community for their cooperation during this unprecedented response. The actions you are taking will affect not only you, but also your loved ones and our most vulnerable.
Firstly, I want to ensure that everyone heard the news that The Ontario Ministry of Health has a new enhanced self-assessment tool online. If you think you have coronavirus symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has it, use this online self-assessment to help determine how to seek further care and receive recommendations to either continue physical (social) distancing or self-isolate.
Moving forward, you will also begin to hear the use of the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.” This language is beginning to be used around the world and is clearer about what we are recommending to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We want residents to keep a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others, but not to disconnect socially. It is very important during this time, that we maintain social connections to support our mental health; however, these social connections with people outside your household should be done through phone calls and other technology as much as possible.
Regarding gathering more information on whether people are adhering to social distancing. In the short term, we are using more traditional means: we are planning a population survey, through a phone survey that will be implemented in the next few days. We are exploring all options to use technology to assist with the response, but have no plans to implement cell phone proximity tracking or social media mining. Exploring some of these options would need to be done in a transparent way to be sure that privacy is protected and there is evidence the tools work the way we’d want them to.
As of this morning, OPH is investigating 25 confirmed cases and 13 indeterminate cases. We anticipate this number will continue to increase as more people are exposed to the virus in our community and are getting tested.
Regarding testing, we are actively working with our laboratory and health care partners to improve their wait times to receiving results. Currently we are hearing that the average wait time for results is 7 days. We are working with our healthcare partners to ramp up their efforts to process samples locally as part of a more sustainable model. We appreciate your patience and request that you not call Ottawa Public Health for test results. If you are tested at the Assessment Centre, please follow their guidance on how to receive your results through their on-line mechanisms.
For those individuals that have received testing and need clarity while they are waiting for results, the guidance is consistent with what we are recommending for self-isolation. For example:
- If you got tested because you had symptoms, regardless of travel history, you need to stay in isolation for 14 days or until 24 hours after your symptoms clear up (whichever is longer); or
- If your symptoms escalate beyond what you can manage at home, go to the emergency department – regardless of if you have been tested. Testing is not treatment. We want to ensure people that need care, get care.
Thank you for continuing to share this information and please visit our website regularly for the latest updates: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus.
Ontario has created a new self-assessment tool
If you think you have 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, use this self-assessment to help determine if you need to seek further care. Visit here.
If you require help in Ottawa South, please visit our website for Community links and contacts.
Ottawa Public Health
For the latest updates, please click here.
Government of Ontario
Every day at 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET, the Province of Ontario’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) web page will be updated with the most up-to-date information including the status of cases in Ontario.
Government of Canada
For the latest COVID-19 updates, please click here.
For the latest on Employment and Social Development changes for employees and employers, click here.