Ontario introduced a $17-billion package Wednesday to support the province through the COVID-19 outbreak, including an influx of cash for the health sector, direct payments to parents, and tax breaks for businesses.
"As Finance Minister, my No. 1 priority right now is ensuring that our front-line health-care professionals have the resources they need to fight the COVID-19 outbreak", Mr. Phillips said in a statement.
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the new measures are necessary to deal with the "extraordinary threat" to the health and economy of the province.
Other measures include $74-million for personal protection equipment for frontline healthcare workers and job protective leave for employees in isolation, quarantine and those caring for children.
In other moves aimed at helping people as the crisis deepens, the government is providing more money for low-income seniors by doubling the Guaranteed Annual Income System for six months and providing parents with a one-time payment of $200 for each child under 13 and $250 for special-needs children.
The plan includes $3.3 billion in additional health care resources to protect the health and well-being of the people of Ontario.
COVID-19 is expected to carve out $5.8 billion dollars from the province's revenue stream in 2020-21, largely due to drops in personal income and corporate tax revenue, and due to the closure of casinos operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation.
There are moments that define a generation. But eventually, their memory will become more distant. "These additional resources will enhance hospital capacity, protect our loved ones in long-term care, and support our public health officials' work to flatten the curve and slow the spread".
Public health, at the frontline of efforts to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19, will receive an additional $160 million in part to pay for laboratory and home testing but also to support the publicly-funded vaccines program.
Ontario will also offer families with children locked out of school and daycares $200 per child, hike payments for low-income seniors and reduce hydro bills.
Meanwhile, the government said student loan repayments, under OSAP, would be suspended for six months during the COVID-19 crisis.
The province will also spend $341 million to provide an additional 1,000 acute-care beds and 500 critical-care beds.
Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption.
While Ontario's plan for aid during the COVID-19 crisis covers a lot of ground, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it neglects certain people and small businesses.
"Now a lot of folks have seen their incomes cut or eliminated altogether, which means they're now laying awake at night, anxious about how to keep making ends meet". "That didn't just start today".
Phillips had originally been planning to introduce a full budget Wednesday, but instead tabled a one-year fiscal outlook in light of the global pandemic's uncertain future impacts on the economy.
The latest projections out of Ontario were part of a mini-budget of sorts, as Phillips and Ontario's Progressive Conservative government were forced to delay tabling a full budget until November amid all the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.
It came as the province reported 100 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the provincial total to 688.
The economic plan contains unusually high levels of reserves and contingencies in order to weather future shocks, including the $1-billion COVID-19 contingency fund, a $1.3-billion general contingency fund and what Phillips calls an "unprecedented" $2.5-billion reserve.
The Ontario government's updated economic forecast, which it said is subject to a "greater-than-usual" level of uncertainty, assumes zero growth in the province in 2020 and two per cent growth in 2021.