Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced phasing details of its Safe Restart plan supported by the federal government, with $660 million to be allocated to Ontario’s 110 transit systems.
Municipalities will be provided with up to $1.6 billion as part of a first round of emergency funding under the Safe Restart Agreement, Ford said at an Aug. 12 media conference.
Through the Safe Restart Agreement with the federal government, $695 million will go to municipalities to address operating pressures related to the COVID-19 pandemic through the first round of emergency funding in addition to the $660 million in transit funding. The province is also providing an additional $212 million through the Social Services Relief Fund to help vulnerable people find shelter.
The Ontario government has pledged to allocate $4 billion in one-time assistance to Ontario’s 444 municipalities to help deliver programs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had the backs of our municipalities, which is why we are announcing up to $1.6 billion in critical funding today to help strengthen our communities and safely restart our economy,” said Ford. “This first round of funding will address the most urgent needs of our communities, ensuring critical services like transit and shelters are there when people need them most.”
Up to $695 million in additional funding will be available through Phase 2 to eligible municipalities after they have provided the province with information on their estimated COVID-19 related financial pressures.
The transit funding can be used to provide immediate relief from transit pressures, such as lower ridership, as well as for new costs due to COVID-19, such as enhanced cleaning and masks for staff, a release explained. In the second phase, additional allocations will be provided based on expenses incurred to ensure the funding meets the needs of municipalities. As part of the Safe Restart Agreement with the federal government, up to $2 billion is being provided to support public transit in Ontario.
“Ontario’s public transit systems are critical to supporting the economy and getting people where they need to go as the province gradually reopens,” said Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA) Kinga Surma. “This historic agreement will help ensure that municipalities can continue to provide safe and reliable transit for the people of Ontario.”
Ontario is also providing municipal service managers and Indigenous housing partners with an additional $212 million under the Social Services Relief Fund to help protect vulnerable people from COVID-19.
“This investment can help them protect homeless shelter staff and residents, expand rent support programming and create longer-term housing solutions,” the release stated.