QUEEN’S PARK — NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is concerned the provincial government’s financial statement lacks the direct financial assistance many Ontarians and small and medium-sized local businesses will need to get by during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Far too many workers, families and small businesses were already struggling to stay afloat before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Horwath. “Now a lot of folks have seen their incomes cut or eliminated altogether, which means they’re now laying awake at night, worried about how to keep making ends meet. They can’t wait weeks for federal support to come in, and most can’t get by with their income cut in half.”
The NDP will vote in favour of the financial statement bill, and allow it to pass immediately. But Horwath said the province needs to do better to stop some people from finding themselves in dire financial straits, and preventing some businesses from going under.
“I am urging the government to regroup, and put together a direct financial support package for people, and for small and medium-sized businesses,” said Horwath. “Many Ontarians are at their financial breaking point. Rent and mortgage payments are coming due, and people’s credit card charges are piling up. Folks are worried about how they’ll avoid eviction, and avoid racking up debts that will dog them in the months ahead. And small businesses can’t use a tax credit if they have no cash coming in.”
Prior to the financial statement, Horwath and the NDP called for the provincial government to send $2,000 Ontario Emergency Income cheques to households experiencing unemployment or lost income during the COVID-19 crisis.
The direct payments would bridge the weeks-long wait for federal support payments, and help top-up the Employment Insurance and Emergency Care Benefit payments, which alone only replace about 55 per cent of a person’s income. Horwath’s proposed Ontario Emergency Income payments would be available immediately and automatically to those enrolled in Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance, and the federal Emergency Care Benefit, and distributed to everyone who needs them by April 1.