Ontario municipalities to share up to $ 4 billion in COVID-19 assistance


The mayor of Ontario’s largest city applauded the announcement Monday that municipalities across the province will share $ 4 billion in funding to help cover budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city of Toronto alone faces a shortfall of $ 1.35 billion by the end of this year, after city staff identified opportunities for savings. Most of this budget hole – $ 700 million – is attributed to the TTC and declining ridership.

“Hopefully we can get the full $ 1.3 billion, but I can’t say I expected it,” Mayor John Tory said at a press conference after the announcement of the provincial and federal financing plan for 440 towns and villages.

Previously, the city had described significant cuts in services that would be needed if funding did not materialize, including libraries and the police.

The Conservatives said the city did not know how much Toronto would receive, but called the announcement a “very positive sign.”

He encouraged the province to use up-to-date information, such as transit ridership, to determine how the money is shared among municipalities.

Premier Doug Ford said the money announced on Monday will reduce budget shortfalls and details will come in the coming weeks.

“This funding will help restart our economy,” he told a press conference at Queen’s Park, noting that it was part of a $ 19 billion deal negotiated by the provinces with the federal government at the time. last week.

“Our municipalities have been hit hard by COVID-19.”

There will be $ 2 billion for public transit systems, split between Queen’s Park and the federal government, and $ 2 billion for municipalities, including $ 777 million from the federal government and $ 1.22 billion from the province.

Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney said some transit systems had lost 90% of their ridership and faced higher cleanup costs, making financial assistance crucial to keep lines in service for that essential workers and others can get to their jobs.

The money was also applauded by municipal groups.

“This is an important investment in communities in every part of our province and in Ontario’s economic recovery,” said Jamie McGarvey, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

City and regional government leaders in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) called the funding pledge a “positive sign” in a joint statement after a meeting on Monday.

“Mayors and Presidents look forward to receiving more details on how this substantial and much needed funding will be allocated so that we can fully understand how it will help meet our needs,” the statement said.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said the money will not be provided until the federal government releases it and calculations can be made to determine how much each municipality will receive.

Opposition parties have said municipalities need more funding, especially for daycares and long-term care homes.

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“Unless the government wants to shore up child care with an immediate investment, there will be an exodus of working mothers from the economy,” warned Green Leader Mike Schreiner.

“While the funding announced on Monday may give some leeway to municipalities suffering the costs of a pandemic, it is still a long way from what will be needed to protect jobs and public services in the long term,” the Minister said. New Democrat MP Jeff Burch (Niagara Center).

After the $ 19 billion deal was reached last week, the federal government said $ 4.5 billion would go to Ottawa’s purchase of personal protective equipment, plus $ 3 billion for support provincial purchasing efforts; $ 4.28 billion will go to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; $ 2 billion for municipalities; $ 1.8 billion for public transit that the provinces must match; $ 1.1 billion for temporary income support for sick leave; $ 740 million to support vulnerable populations and long-term care; $ 700 million for health care capacity plus $ 500 million for mental health; and $ 625 million for child care.

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter who covers city hall and municipal politics for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags


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