As the first month of 2021 comes to a close, we see the continued roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations, despite the lack of delivery of vaccines by the federal government this past week.
In spite of this recent temporary set-back, I am pleased to say we are well on track to meet our vaccination targets for the province. The Ontario government is ready to administer 40,000 vaccines per day and is building capacity to triple or quadruple that capacity pending federal government supply.
We are confident we can hit our February 5 target to complete Phase 1. After that, we will turn to high risk areas in Phase 2 of the plan. First responders, teachers and grocery store clerks would be included in this group.
We will continue to develop a plan to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination of the province’s most vulnerable and carry on administering second doses based on availability of supply of the vaccines.
Here are a few important recent lockdown announcements you need to know:
- This week, we extended the declared provincial emergency for another 14 days. Stay-at-home-orders will be in place until February 9, 2021.
- We know staying home means using more electricity during the day when rates are higher. That’s why we are extending electricity rate relief for families and small businesses until Feb 9, 2021.
- Though some schools will reopen next week, schools in Toronto will remain closed until at least Wednesday, February 10, 2021. During this extended closure, remote learning will continue.
As the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, I am spending a lot of time hearing ideas and suggestions from people across the province on our government’s budget consultations. If you have any feedback on how we can continue to support people and employers during COVID-19, while continuing to position Ontario for a strong economic recovery, I would encourage you to make your submission here. Deadline for this consultation is February 12, 2021. The next provincial budget will be tabled in late March, 2021.
Finally, a reminder stay at home, unless shopping for essentials (such as groceries or prescriptions), exercising or going to work if you can’t work remotely in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I know how hard this is for most people, especially those who live alone but it is the best way to fight this deadly disease. The quicker we stop the spread, the quicker we can get back to our daily routines.
Here are some recent government announcements:
PROGRESS TESTING TRAVELERS AT PEARSON AIRPORT
This week, our government provided an update on Ontario’s voluntary and free border testing pilot program, which was implemented to help quickly identify and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. To date over 6,800 international travelers have been tested for COVID-19, with 2.26 per cent of these tests detecting positive cases.
Despite this steady progress, the province is calling on the federal government to take further action to protect the border, including mandatory testing of all incoming international passengers and a temporary ban on direct flights from countries where new variants are detected.
ONTARIO SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT GRANTS UPDATE
If you are a small business owner, have you applied for the COVID-19 support grant yet?
To date, more than 42,000 applications have been received for the Grants, and businesses that have been approved can expect to receive payment within about 10 business days.
This vital program will provide eligible businesses with a one-time grant and provide much needed support to help get them through these challenging times.
The government will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small businesses facing challenges due to the necessary Province-wide shutdown. This grant also provides for small business owners so that they can spend it however makes the most sense for their businesses (e.g. paying rent, paying employee wages, maintaining inventory, etc.).
Businesses can apply here.
Please contact my office if you have any trouble applying for the grants and one of my staff would be happy to assist you.
ANNOUNCEMENT FOR UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO & McMASTER UNIVERSITY
This week, our government announced that we are providing more than $2.3 million to McMaster University and the University of Toronto through the Ontario Together Fund to carry out research, development, and testing of the next generation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These projects will help improve the technology and better protect frontline workers.
EXPANDING ELIGIBILITY FOR EMERGENCY CHILD-CARE DURING EXTENDED REMOTE LEARNING
This week, we announced our government is further expanding eligibility for the targeted emergency child care program to additional workers who are performing critical roles across our economy and communities. This expansion takes effect on January 27th, and is intended to support workers and their families with child care options at no cost in regions where elementary students continue to learn remotely.
New additions to the list of those eligible for Emergency Child Care:
- Individuals working in fuel distribution and oil refineries;
- Education staff who are required to report to work in person while their children continue with remote learning;
- Grocery store and pharmacy workers;
- Truck drivers;
- Farmers and those who support food or agricultural product supply chains;
- Individuals involved in the collecting, transporting, storing, processing, disposing or recycling of any type of waste; and
- Individuals working in the manufacturing and distribution of disinfectants and sanitizers.
Constituents are able to contact their municipality or municipal service system manager to confirm if they are eligible for emergency child care.
COMMUNITY SAFETY AND POLICING GRANT
Our government is providing police services across the province with additional tools and resources to combat crime and keep communities safe by investing approximately $2.8 million over two years through the Community Safety and Policing Grant program.
Police Services will receive funding for projects that combat gun and gang violence, sexual violence and harassment, a well as human trafficking — three areas identified as provincial priorities.
This investment is in addition to the $195 million the province is already providing through the local and provincial priorities funding streams of the CSP grant program over three years. It also builds on the province’s $112 million Guns, Gangs and Violence Reduction Strategy as well as its new comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking.
ADDING MORE MENTAL HEALTH BEDS AND PROGRAMS FOR SENIORS
Recently our government announced that we are providing over $12 million to add new mental health beds in hospitals and to expand programs that support the mental health and well-being of seniors across the province. This funding is part of the government’s comprehensive mental health and addictions plan, Roadmap to Wellness. Our plan is delivering high-quality care and building a modern, connected and comprehensive system to support those dealing with mental health and addictions issues.
Stay safe and support local business.
We'll get through this together.