Horwath urges Premier Doug Ford to give COVID-19-impacted households $2K relief cheques
|Toronto Star 23 Mar 2020 at 11:40|
As Premier Doug Ford scrambles to help Ontario’s most vulnerable people, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling for immediate $2,000 payments to households facing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Horwath on Monday called for “Ontario Emergency Income” cheques to individuals and families that are experiencing unemployment or lost income in the crisis.
The payouts, which could cost the treasury as much as $6 billion, are designed to bridge people through to any federal Employment Insurance cheques that have yet to flow.
They would also automatically flow to those on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program as well as those already on EI.
“People cannot wait weeks for money to come in, and most couldn’t pay the rent and make ends meet with their income cut in half,” said Horwath, expressing hope for such relief in Wednesday’s fiscal update by Finance Minister Rod Phillips.
“I have asked the provincial government to include in Wednesday’s financial statement a plan to send $2,000 to each household experiencing unemployment or lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the payments arrive before April 1, and come up with an ongoing plan to continue providing the support Ontarians need,” she said.
“We need to help people before rent is due, before the cupboards are empty.”
Horwath is also recommending a $250 per child benefit for households economically affected by the pandemic and at least $1 billion in “surge funding” for Ontario hospitals.
She would also like to see an end to “time of use” electricity pricing — which Ford has already promised — and interest-free utility bill deferrals to help families.
The premier will unveil the next steps in the government’s plan to tackle the fallout of COVID-19 later Monday. He is expected to disclose new measures to help those on social assistance.
Last Tuesday, Ford declared a state of emergency and asked that people stay home if possible and restricted all gatherings to 50 or fewer people.
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So far, the provincial Progressive Conservatives have earmarked $304 million for relief efforts, but the premier has stressed that is just the first phase and “no expense will be spared.”
He has instructed landlords not to evict anyone during the pandemic and has been mobilizing businesses to help manufacture needed medical devices, such as ventilators and protective masks.
Many private companies — including brewing giant Labatt and distillers Dillon’s, Corby, Spirit of York, and Kinsip — have shifted production to make hand sanitizer.