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  • Stephen Lecce, MPP

Ontario Continues to Support Families and Businesses during COVID-19 Pandemic

TORONTO – Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, issued the following statement following today’s monthly employment release by Statistics Canada: “Employment in Ontario increased by 46,900 in December, almost all of which are full-time jobs. Although today’s numbers are good news, they are tempered by the reality of a new COVID-19 variant. Our priority remains to protect the health of Ontarians and our economy and we are taking action to protect both. Our ambitious rollout of vaccines and booster shots has been working to keep families, communities, and workplaces as safe as possible. As of January 6, more than 4.4 million booster doses have been administered across the province. As we continue to accelerate our provincial vaccine booster efforts, we are taking further action to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant to protect families and businesses and the progress we have made. In response to recent trends that show an alarming increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has temporarily moved the province into Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen with modifications that take into account the province’s successful vaccination efforts. Our government continues to take an all-hands-on-deck approach and work directly with the business community to protect against increased spread of the virus. To increase the province’s booster vaccination capacity, business groups and large corporations are stepping up, once again, to offer employer-led vaccine clinics. We’re calling on Ontario businesses to learn more about the criteria for setting up an employer-led vaccine clinic to help protect our families and communities during this next wave. For businesses that are most impacted by necessary public health measures or capacity limits due to Omicron, our government has introduced new financial supports to help them weather the storm. Earlier this morning, as part of a comprehensive plan to support workers and businesses, our government announced an Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant for small businesses that are subject to closure under the modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen. It will provide eligible small businesses with a grant payment of $10,000. Eligible small businesses include:

  • Restaurants and bars;

  • Facilities for indoor sports and recreational fitness activities (including fitness centres and gyms);

  • Performing arts and cinemas;

  • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions;

  • Meeting or event spaces;

  • Tour and guide services;

  • Conference centres and convention centres;

  • Driving instruction for individuals; and

  • Before- and after- school programs.

The Ontario government is also providing electricity-rate relief to support small businesses, as well as workers and families spending more time at home while the province is in Modified Step Two. For 21 days starting at 12:01 am on Tuesday, January 18, 2022, electricity prices will be set 24 hours a day at the current off-peak rate of 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is less than half the cost of the current on-peak rate. The off-peak rate will apply automatically to residential, small businesses and farms who pay regulated rates set by the Ontario Energy Board and get a bill from a utility and will benefit customers on both Time-of-Use and Tiered rate plans. Further, online applications for the previously-announced Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program will open on January 18. This program will provide eligible businesses that are required to close or reduce capacity with rebate payments for up to 100 per cent of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to public health measures in response to the Omicron variant. Eligible businesses required to close for indoor activities, such as restaurants and gyms, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 100 per cent of their costs. Those required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent, such as smaller retail stores, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 50 per cent of their costs. A complete list of eligible businesses will be provided prior to the launch of the application portal. These new programs build on previous business support programs, including the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, the Property Tax and Energy Cost Rebates, and the Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant. We’re also introducing a six-month interest- and penalty-free period to make payments for most provincially administered taxes, cutting wholesale alcohol prices to provide approximately $60 million in annual support to restaurants, bars and other businesses, and extending COVID-19 paid sick days until July 31, 2022 to keep workers safe and ensure they do not lose pay if they need to miss work for reasons related to COVID-19. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Ontario has provided an estimated $10.1 billion in support to Ontario businesses in 2021, with more than 60 per cent, or $6.3 billion, going to small businesses.”

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