By Jim McDonell, MPP
As the COVID-19 emergency continues, I want to emphasize the importance of following the guidelines issued by our federal, provincial, and local Eastern Ontario Health Unit medical officers of health. We have the benefit of learning from countries that experienced this virus months ago. There is a narrow window to control the spread of this virus, and it is imperative to take steps now so that we do not overwhelm our health care system. It is not an easy situation when you, your family, and loved ones have to deal with such a significant disruption of your regular routines, especially when many are dealing with a loss of income. It is necessary and the right thing to do. For those who are still able to work, especially our front-line health and emergency professionals, our Government is genuinely grateful for all you do.
I can assure you the Government is responding as quickly and compassionately as possible. We announced $17 billion in new funding through Ontario’s Action Plan 2020-2021. The plan includes $3.3 billion in support for hospitals, public health, long term care capacity, and for the purchase of personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies. As well, $3.7 billion was allocated to offset child care costs, lower energy and electricity bills for families, small businesses, and farms, double the Guaranteed Annual Income System for seniors, provide student loan relief, support Indigenous people and communities, and help businesses. An additional $10 billion will be available for people, municipalities, and businesses through tax and other deferrals to improve cash flow over the coming months.
The Government also announced the mandatory closure to the public of all non-essential workplaces here in Ontario to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you are a business that can work from home, we encourage you to continue your operations. Any organization that can work remotely over the phone, online, or via post should continue to operate. The Government acknowledges that certain essential businesses are required to keep running to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians while supporting Ontario’s strong economy in a way that is safe and appropriate for today’s reality. A list of essential businesses is available at https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/list-of-essential-workplaces.html.
I want to thank all the people working on the front lines to provide the necessary services that we rely on every day, especially through these trying times. To ensure these workers can continue to focus on their work, the Government is taking steps to provide daycare services for their children. Once emergency child care centres open, a list of locations will be made available on ontario.ca/coronavirus.
Again, I want to thank everyone for making the efforts required to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These are challenging times, and together we will get through it and hopefully just have another story to tell our grandchildren. I want to remind everyone that you can access the latest COVID-19 news at https://ontario.ca/covid-19.