Premier Doug Ford announced $11 million for programs for seniors and people with disabilities, like Meals on Wheels and Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments. The investment will be delivered through the Ontario Community Support Association.
"No one must be left behind," Ford said at his daily press conference on Tuesday.
He asked Ontarians to check in on their elderly neighbours, or anyone else who might need extra help, and offer to deliver groceries or assist in other ways.
For the next six months, low-income seniors receiving GAINS payments can now get up to $166 per month, and couples can receive up to $332 per month.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has called for more measures to help small businesses survive once the pandemic is over. Ford said he's working with Ottawa on rent relief for businesses, and promised to be there to support businesses that are hurting right now — though he declined to get more specific.
Ford didn't say whether he thought Ontario could recoup all of its more than 400,000 lost jobs, but returned to a familiar talking point: that before the pandemic, the province had lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs under the Liberal government (that trend has continued under the PCs).
The premier reiterated his confidence in the province's workers and business community to get the economy "booming" once the crisis is over.
"It's not going to happen overnight — the whole world is seeing this — but if there's one area, one jurisdiction in the world I have confidence in, it's in the people of Ontario," he said.
Social Services Minister Todd Smith said childhood budgets for families of children with autism will be extended for six months. Smith said his ministry has been encouraging autism service providers to "move as much as they can onto virtual platforms or Telehealth-type programs."
"There's a lot of families in crisis out there," Smith said in acknowledging the trouble that families of children with autism have been going through during the pandemic.
"We're trying to do as much as we can to ensure that service delivery will continue in some form or another, either through Telehealth or through a virtual platform," he said.
Smith promised a new plan in the coming days for "immediate actions" to help the province's congregate care facilities. He said the plan will focus on COVID-19 prevention, enhanced screening, infection control measures, and fixing staffing issues.
Many congregate care facilities say they still don't have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to adequately shield their workers. Smith said protective gowns specifically have been "hard to come by." He said any organization in need of help should notify their regional manager under the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the government will make sure PPE is delivered.
Ontario Correctional Institute
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) slammed the government on Monday for a COVID-19 outbreak at Brampton's Ontario Correctional Institute, where more than 60 inmates and eight staff have tested positive. All inmates have been transferred to the Toronto South Detention Centre as the Brampton site has temporarily closed.
“The Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General has a responsibility to keep corrections workers and inmates safe. The ministry is failing miserably,” OPSEU President Smokey Thomas said in a release.
Ford defended the government's response, saying that "a few people were infected" at the Brampton jail, and he personally made sure protective equipment was dropped off there weeks ago.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones "has done an incredible job" in protecting prison guards, he said. "And we're going to do everything we can to protect them."
He added that the last time he checked, the Toronto South Detention Centre was "fully stocked" with PPE.
Ford said that despite intense lobbying he remains committed to a cautious approach to re-opening Ontario's economy.
One of those lobbyists is his 12-year-old nephew, also named Doug.
"I even got a call from Rob's son...saying, 'Uncle Doug, am I going to camp or not?' And I told him, well, I can't answer that. 'Well how about in August?' I said I can't answer that. He goes, 'Well, find out and get back to me right away.' And I thought, really? I'm getting lobbied by my 12-year-old nephew, too," he said with a chuckle.
Ford said that although British Columbia is re-opening golf courses, that province is about three weeks ahead of Ontario's pandemic curve. He said when he spoke to B.C. Premier John Horgan "four or five days ago, they only had nine cases in all of B.C. that day." (B.C.'s lowest number of new cases in the past week was 14, on April 16.)
Ford said he'll look to Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams for benchmarks the province will have to hit before sectors re-open. Later Tuesday afternoon, Williams declined to give specific benchmarks, but said community transmission would have to be "curtailed" significantly before he'd feel comfortable easing restrictions.