Ontario budget brings province's COVID-19 response to $51 billion
Posted in: News Item
Date Posted: 2021-03-24
Organization Name: Province of Ontario
The 2021 Ontario budget – Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy – is the next phase of the province’s response to COVID-19 and is the second budget the government has delivered during the pandemic.
“You can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board. “For the past year, we have been focused on protecting people from COVID-19. Many challenges lie ahead. But with vaccines being distributed in every corner of the province, hope is on the horizon. We are ready to finish the job we started one year ago.”
The 2021 budget builds on the government’s response to the global pandemic, bringing total investments to $16.3 billion to protect people’s health and $23.3 billion to protect the economy. Ontario’s COVID-19 action plan support now totals $51 billion.
Like economies around the world, Ontario has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The province’s real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have declined by 5.7 percent in 2020. As the economy recovers, Ontario’s real GDP and employment are both forecast to surpass their pre-pandemic levels in early 2022.
Ontario is projecting a $38.5 billion deficit in 2020–21. Over the medium term, the government projects steadily declining deficits of $33.1 billion in 2021–22, $27.7 billion in 2022–23 and $20.2 billion in 2023–24.
“Eventually the pandemic will be behind us. It is months, not years away,” Bethlenfalvy said. “We will get to that day through the hard work and sacrifice of Team Ontario. Our government is going to be there every step of the way to make good on our commitment to protect people’s health and jobs. When this chapter is finally closed, I’m confident that the people of Ontario are going to unleash the economic growth that is necessary for job creation, prosperity and a stronger province.”
Protecting People’s Health is the first pillar of the 2021 budget. It includes measures for defeating COVID-19, fixing long-term care and caring for people.
“Vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, and boots are on the ground to get vaccines into arms as they arrive in the province,” Bethlenfalvy said. “We will continue to invest in our health care system today and for the long term, building on record investments since the start of the pandemic to create more hospital beds, build and improve hospitals, increase testing and fix long-term care.”
Highlights of Ontario’s plan to defeat COVID-19:
To vaccinate every person in the province who wants to be vaccinated, Ontario has made more than $1 billion available for a provincewide vaccination plan. Ontario is also making it safer to re-engage with workplaces, businesses and communities with $2.3 billion for testing and contact tracing.
To protect the frontline heroes and vulnerable people, Ontario has made available $1.4 billion for personal protective equipment, including more than 315 million masks and more than 1.2 billion gloves.
To ensure that every person who requires care in a hospital can access a bed, even during the worst of the pandemic, the government is investing an additional $5.1 billion to support hospitals since the pandemic began, creating more than 3,100 additional hospital beds. This includes $1.8 billion in 2021–22 to continue providing care for COVID-19 patients, address surgical backlogs and keep pace with patient needs.
Highlights of Ontario’s plan to fix long-term care:
To address decades of neglect and help those waiting to get into long-term care, Ontario is investing an additional $933 million over four years, for a total of $2.6 billion, to support building 30,000 new long-term care beds. Ontario is also investing $246 million over the next four years to improve living conditions in existing homes, including ensuring that homes have air conditioning for residents, so loved ones can live in comfort and with safety, dignity and respect.
To protect loved ones in long-term care from the deadly COVID-19 virus, Ontario is investing an additional $650 million in 2021–22, bringing the total resources invested since the beginning of the pandemic to protect the most vulnerable to over $2 billion.
To ensure loved ones receive the best quality care in Canada, Ontario is investing $4.9 billion over four years to increase the average direct daily care to four hours a day in long-term care and hiring more than 27,000 new positions, including personal support workers (PSWs) and nurses.
Highlights of Ontario’s plan to care for people:
To address the need for more health care services, Ontario is making investments to support historic hospital expansion and construction projects, including a new inpatient wing at William Osler Health System’s Peel Memorial, and ongoing planning of a new regional hospital in Windsor-Essex.
To help the thousands of people struggling with mental health and addictions issues, Ontario is providing additional funding of $175 million in 2021–22 as part of a historic investment of $3.8 billion over 10 years, to provide more and better care for everyone who needs it.
Protecting Our Economy is the second pillar of the 2021 budget. It outlines Ontario’s plan to support families, workers and employers.
“The necessary public health measures have come at a cost for workers, families and business owners, but there is no question that they have saved lives,” Bethlenfalvy said. “We recognize the sacrifices that have been made. We are taking further steps to provide additional relief and support to those who have been most impacted by the pandemic, including providing a third round of direct payments to parents, doubling the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, and helping workers with their training expenses.”
Highlights of Ontario’s plan to support workers and families:
To help workers with their training expenses, the government is proposing a new Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021. It would provide up to $2,000 per recipient for 50 percent of eligible expenses, for a total of an estimated $260 million in support to about 230,000 people in 2021.
To help families – who have faced new pressures and expenses due to the pandemic – keep more money in their pockets, the government is providing a third round of payments to support parents through the Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit, totalling $1.8 billion since last March. The payment will be doubled to $400 per child for this round and $500 for each child with special needs, which means a family with three young children, one of whom has special needs, will receive $2,600 in total after the third round of payments.
To support parents with the cost of childcare and help them get back to the workforce, the government is proposing a 20 percent enhancement of the CARE tax credit for 2021. This would increase support from $1,250 to $1,500, on average, providing about $75 million in additional support for the childcare expenses of over 300,000 families.
Highlights of Ontario’s plan to support jobs:
To help small businesses that have been most affected by the necessary restrictions to protect people from COVID-19, Ontario is providing a second round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments to eligible recipients. Approximately 120,000 small businesses will automatically benefit from an additional $1.7 billion in relief through this second round of support in the form of grants of a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 – bringing the estimated total support provided through this grant to $3.4 billion.
To support Ontario’s tourism, hospitality and culture industries that have been among the most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario is investing an additional $400 million over the next three years in new initiatives to support these sectors. This builds on previously announced investments of $225 million, bringing the total to more than $625 million since the pandemic began.
To connect homes, businesses and communities to broadband – which COVID-19 has demonstrated is a necessity, not a luxury – Ontario is investing $2.8 billion, bringing the Province’s total investment to nearly $4 billion over six years beginning 2019–20.
Highlights of Ontario’s plan to support communities:
To support faith-based and cultural organizations that are struggling due to the additional costs caused by COVID-19, Ontario will be making up to $50 million available for grants to eligible organizations.
To support Ontario’s 444 municipalities, the province’s key partners in the fight against COVID-19, the government is providing almost $1 billion in additional financial relief in 2021 to help preserve vital public services and support economic recovery.