Non-Essential Businesses Closed: The government ordered the closure of all non-essential workplaces in Ontario starting March 24 at 11:59 p.m. The full list of essential businesses that may remain open can be found here.
Economic Aid: The Ontario government Employment Standards Amendment Act to ensure no Ontarian will need to worry about losing their job; and An Act to Amend the Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act to ensure groceries and other essential items are always stocked by allowing 24/7 delivery services.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips released Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 (March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update). The action plan includes $7 billion in additional resources for the health care system and director support for individuals and jobs. The plan will also make available $10 billion in support for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals to improve their cash flow, while protecting jobs and household budgets. More details here.
Premier Doug Ford announced the Government of Ontario is investing $10 million to help community organizations with the coordination of subsidized deliveries of meals, medicines and other necessities to seniors. This investment doubles the government’s initial commitment in Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19.
Closures / Restrictions: The government has limited all non-essential gatherings from 50 people down to 5 people. This new measure does not apply to essential businesses, childcare facilities, and families of more than 5 people.
Premier Doug Ford extended the Declaration of Emergency and associated emergency measures, including the closure of non-essential workplaces and restrictions on social gatherings. The government also issued a new emergency order that will see all outdoor amenities closed effective immediately.
Premier Doug Ford alongside Minister Lecce, Education, Minister Romano, Colleges and Universities and Minister Elliott, Health announced that schools and child care centres will remain closed to protect the health and safety of students and staff. Public schools will remain closed to teachers until May 1, 2020 and to students until May 4, 2020. Private schools, licensed childcare centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until April 13, 2020. Closures may be extended if necessary.
COVID-19 Countermeasures: The government announced the launching of Ontario Together, a website to help businesses work with the province to meet the challenges of COVID-19 through redeploying manufacturing capacity, and solicit ideas through the portal here. The Premier announced a $300-million “first stage” relief package that is aimed at increasing containment efforts across the province. The provincial government will provide immediate electricity relief for families, small businesses and farms paying time-of-use rates. The electricity prices will be held to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour for a 45-day period. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, has also issued a new directive for long-term care homes under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 that restricts residents from leaving a home for short visits with family and friends.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced new penalties to combat price gouging. Effective immediately, the government has issued an emergency order that retail businesses and individuals in Ontario cannot charge unfair prices for necessary goods including masks and protective gloves, non-prescription medication for the treatment of the symptoms of COVID-19, disinfecting agents intended for cleaning and disinfecting objects, and personal hygiene products such as soap products and paper products.
The new penalties include:
For Individual Offenders: a ticket of $750, or, if summoned to court and convicted, a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and one year in jail.
For company directors or officers: a fine of up to $500,000 and up to a year in jail.
For corporations a fine of up to $10 million.
To ensure continuity of learning, the government is launching the second phase of Learn at Home. The second phase outlines a new set of expectations for the education community, including:
- Reconnecting students with teachers and other school staff, including mental health workers;
- Re-establishing teacher-led learning by grade groupings as follows:
- Kindergarten – Grade 3: 5 hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy and math)
- Grades 4-6: 5 hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy, math, science and social studies)
- Grades 7-8: 10 hours of work per student/week (focus on math, literacy, science and social studies)
- Grades 9-12: 3 hours of work per course per week for semestered students; 1.5 hours of work per course per week for non-semestered students (focus on achieving credits/completion/graduation)
- Leveraging digital resources and identifying alternative forms of teacher-student connectivity, such as phone and mail;
- Developing a program of training for educators to support them in virtual learning delivery;
- Requiring final report cards for all students;
- Prioritizing and supporting students on track to graduate;
- Distributing laptops and/or devices from schools as needed, while observing public health direction;
- Maintaining a responsive posture for health care and community partner requests; and
- Establishing formal COVID-19 working groups with education sector unions to work together, share ideas and to find solutions in the support of students.
The Government of Ontario is easing the financial burden on postsecondary students by temporarily deferring payments for Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans until September 30, 2020, and making online learning supports, including year-end exams, available to postsecondary institutions. The measures also include:
- Securing an agreement with eCampus Ontario to ensure students will be able to complete their term without interruption. Starting this April, colleges and universities in Ontario will have access to an online exam proctoring tool that can be used on a voluntary and as-needed basis for final exams.
- Providing $25 million in one-time funding to support publicly assisted colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutes with institutional specific priorities in response to COVID-19.