Terence Kernaghan MPP, London North Centre

Government of Ontario

Horwath calls for $2000 Emergency Income

Published on March 23, 2020

Horwath calls for $2,000 Emergency Income to help Ontarians pay the bills and get by

Offers suggestions for financial statement to support people, small business, health care and more 

QUEEN’S PARK — Andrea Horwath is calling for Wednesday’s financial statement to include a plan 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 would 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 OntarioWorks, the Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance, and the federal Emergency Care Benefit, and distributed to everyone who needs them by April 1.

“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. “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.

“We need to help people before rent is due, before the cupboards are empty.”

The Official Opposition has provided the government with the Ontario Emergency Income proposal, along with a number of other emergency measures it is urging the government to include in Wednesday’s fiscal plan:

·       A $250 per child emergency child benefit for households experiencing unemployment or reduced income

·       A minimum $1 billion in surge funding for hospitals

·       100 per cent provincial funding for Public Health Units

·       A fund to provide child care for health care, public health and essential workers

·       A Personal Support Worker (PSW) retention fund

·       Interest-free utility bill deferrals and the end of Time of Use hydro billing

·       A stabilization fund for the non-profit sector – like food banks

·       A wage-fund boost and remote-work set up fund to support small and medium-sized businesses, which face much greater challenges now than large businesses

·       A program for ongoing income support for Ontarians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

“The Official Opposition has told the government we’re ready to help put this plan together, and enact the changes without delay,” said Horwath.

 

Background 

Strengthening health care

·       Provide — at minimum — an additional $1 billion in surge funding to hospitals.

·       Provide 100 per cent provincial funding to public health units, so that they are not relying on municipalities for 30 per cent of their funding, especially while municipalities have paused revenue tools like property tax payments.

·       Create a fund to recruit back and retain Personal Support Workers (PSW), many of which have left the profession. The PSW shortage in Ontario is hurting home care and long-term care, which could impact COVID-19 containment efforts.

·       Offer dedicated funding for child care for health care, public health and other essential workers.

·       Provide necessary funding in home and community care to ensure no disruption to critical services like dialysis and cancer treatment.

·       Set aside additional, dedicated funding to improve measures to protect seniors, including additional screening and supports for isolation.

 

Helping people

·       Establish the Ontario Emergency Income program to provide households experiencing unemployment or lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic with $2,000, plus $250 per dependent child.

·       Order all utilities to provide interest-free bill deferrals of up to six months to anyone who cites financial need, with penalty-free repayment plans.

·       Immediately cancel Time Of Use hydro billing.

·       Write into law that no one can be evicted for any reason during the pandemic, nor punished in any way for missing a rent payment.

·       Waive the requirement for Ontario Works recipients to be actively looking for work.

·       Create a new stabilization fund for the non-profit sector to provide financial support for non-profits like food banks — they’re losing donations right when their work is more valuable than ever.

·       Designate immediate emergency funding for the shelter system, outreach and harm reduction to ensure that vulnerable populations have the support they need to stay healthy and enforce social distancing instructions.

·       Automatically renew transfer payments to agencies, organizations and programs currently being funded, so that staff can be retained and people’s needs can be met. 

·       Bring in a program for ongoing income support for Ontarians throughout the pandemic.

 

Bolstering small and medium-sized businesses

·       The federal government has offered a 10 per cent wage subsidy program for small businesses. The province needs to institute a substantial top-up, so employers can afford to maintain staff on the payroll while business is hampered.

·       Working with other levels of government, immediately halt the collection of all payroll, property, sales, and income taxes from small and medium-sized business; including ceasing issuing penalties and fines on taxes owed, and limit audits..

·       Institute a utility payment freeze for small and medium-sized businesses.

·       Postpone tourism and marketing fees for businesses in the very hard-hit hospitality sector, as requested by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

·       Dedicate additional resources to ensure the food supply chain is maintained and responsive to shortages, including direct support to growers and animal agriculture. 

·       Create a remote-work set up fund for small-businesses — which could help them with things like setting up an online retail operation, or buying laptops and software for their workforce.

·       Institute an auto-insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers.

 

Partnering with municipalities

·       For municipalities that institute property tax deferrals, ensure the flexibility to defer their remittance of property taxes to the province.

·       Provide 100 per cent provincial funding to public health units, so that they are not relying on municipalities for 30 per cent of their funding, especially while municipalities have paused revenue tools like property tax payments.

Background: Ontario Emergency Income

·       Any household experiencing unemployment or reduced income would be eligible to apply for Ontario Emergency Income, a one-time $2,000 cheque or direct deposit.

·       Individuals already enrolled in support programs including Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance, and the federal Emergency Care Benefit would be automatically enrolled.

·       The Ontario Emergency Income payment is intended to support those left out of the federal programs and in serious need, such as those who may not be sick, self-isolating or caring for child or family member, but have lost a significant amount of their income because their workplace is operating on limited hours, for example, as well as those who qualify for federal Employment Insurance or the Emergency Care Benefit but are in the waiting period.

·       Families with dependents qualify for an additional $250 per child.

·       Payments should be received by April 1, making it possible for monthly expenses due on the first of the month to be paid.

·       We have previously asked that the government provide a law preventing any form of punishment for late rent or mortgage payments, including a ban on evictions and a ban on late-payment charges.

·       Enrollment should be available by phone and online.

·       People who take advantage of the fund that have not lost their job or had their income reduced will have payments clawed back on their provincial taxes.

·       Given the current uncertainty about the number of people who could qualify, a reasonable cost estimate for the total cost to the provincial treasury for the Ontario Emergency Income program is $6 billion.