Province Announces $17-billion COVID-19 Aid Package

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Ontario will inject more than $2.1-billion into its health-care system immediately to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's part of a $17-billion COVID-19 package announced in Finance Minister Rod Phillips' Fiscal Report at Queens Park Wednesday.

Measures were approved for a onetime payment for parents of $200 per child 12 years old and under, doubling payments for low-income seniors and suspending student loan payments for six months.

The federal government announced every Canadian out of work due to COVID-19 will receive $2,000 a month Wednesday afternoon. Essex MPP Taras Natyshak hoped the province's plan would include immediate funding to hold people over until that help can arrive in April.

"Unfortunately we didn't see any of that today. Small amounts of money will be given to families with children and dependents with disabilities, but by in large these are items that will help down the road and not immediately as we had hoped for," says Natyshak. "People need cash in their hands right now to pay the bills."

But the New Democrat tells AM800 News everyone in the legislature has put their political differences on hold to get things done.

"We need to be quick, we need to work in collaboration with each other and focus on the priorities that we know exist," says Natyshak. "Those priorities are helping those most vulnerable in our communities."

Natyshak is asking residents to be patient as Queens Park deals with a crisis with an evolving blueprint.

"Things are going to have to be rearranged and looked at again, but in the meantime, we support these emergency measures," he added.

The spending includes a $1-billion pandemic contingency fund, $1-billion more for hospitals, and $75-million for more personal protective equipment for front-line workers.

New spending and tax deferrals will push the province's current $9-billion deficit to $20.5-billion next year.

But Phillips says COVID-19 is an, "extraordinary threat to the health and economy of Ontario and it demands an extraordinary response."

It's expected that Queen's Park will be adjourned until April 14 because of the pandemic.

 – with files from the Canadian Press.