The Ontario government is projected to spend $25 billion more than it did last year due to COVID-19 relief for the economy and healthcare sector.
On Wednesday, the province released its 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances, which revealed the government is projecting a total expenditure of $189.7 billion for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is $2.6 billion higher than was originally projected in the November 2020 budget.
These investments are being used to deliver the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, to provide more hospital supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), and to better protect long-term care homes and childcare settings.
“Our priority remains protecting lives and livelihoods and defeating this virus,” said Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy. “That’s why we are spending $25 billion more this year than we did last year. It’s why our government outlined our $45 billion action plan in response to COVID-19 in the fall Budget. And it’s why, since then, we have been focused on beating this second wave. Today’s report – which outlines record levels of government spending – demonstrates that.”
The provincial government outlines that since the 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover, additional investments have been made, including:
- $1.4 billion to launch the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to help small businesses that are required to close or significantly restrict services under the province-wide shutdown, with grants starting at $10,000 and up to $20,000.
- $869 million in additional investments for the hospital sector for supplies and equipment to address the surge in COVID-19 cases, including testing, swabs, saliva tubes and test kits, bringing the total increase in funding to hospitals since 2019-20 to $3.4 billion.
- $609 million to support the procurement of additional PPE, critical supplies, equipment and continued support for essential supply chain operations.
- $398 million in additional support to respond to the impact of COVID-19 in the long-term care sector, which includes continued prevention and containment measures and more funding to support implementation of testing guidelines.
- $235 million in additional supports to protect children and staff in childcare and early years settings.
During a press conference Bethlenfalvy responded to criticism that the provincial government has not spent its $13 billion COVID-19 contingency fund, noting that all the money will be spent by March 31 — at the end of the first quarter.
“While some have criticized us for setting aside funds, thank goodness we had the resources available to respond to the second wave,” Bethlenfalvy said.
The province is facing a $38.5 billion deficit for the current fiscal year to make up for COVID-19 spending.