Ontario parents, seniors and those looking to have a “staycation” amid the pandemic next year are all getting a boost from the provincial government.
It’s giving parents with children aged 12 and under a $200 payment. The benefit is $250 for parents of children and youth 21 or younger who have special needs.
The money is to help parents access workbooks, school supplies and technology to help their child’s learning this year, the province said in the budget. Families can apply for the new program on Nov. 23, 2020 and must submit an application by Jan. 15, 2021.
The new benefit was announced in Ontario’s 2020 budget released Thursday, which detailed its $187 billion budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ontario gave parents the same $200 or $250 benefit in the spring and will spend $380 million on the new benefits.
The province is also giving $70.3 million over the next three years for the Special Services at Home program, which supports families of children who have physical or developmental disabilities, including autism. That money will support 4,700 more children in the 2020-21 year, and 2,100 each following year, according to the government.
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“COVID-19 has brought severe challenges and economic troubles difficult for families and employers. Since the beginning, we’ve promised to be there to help those struggling the most and today, we expand that support,” Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said.
Proposed benefit for seniors’ home renovations
The province is also proposing a new seniors’ tax credit to help the elderly living independently, as well as families who have seniors living with them.
This proposed tax credit will be available to seniors regardless of their incomes or whether they owe income tax for 2021, the government said. It would be worth 25 per cent of up to $10,000 in eligible expenses for a senior’s primary Ontario residence, with a maximum credit of $2,500.
Eligible expenses include grab bars or other reinforcements around a toilet, bathtub or shower, wheelchair ramps, stair lifts and elevators. The benefit can also be used to renovate to allow a senior to live on the first floor of a home or to create a secondary suite for them.
The provincial government estimates 27,000 people, whether they’re seniors or people living with senior relatives, will get the estimated $30 million in support from the benefit.
Seniors in Ontario could previously qualify for the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit, which expired in 2016 and gave eligible seniors 15 per cent of eligible expenses back.
“I think this is a different time,” Phillips said, in response to a question about estimated uptake for the new tax credit. “I think the fact that it’s 25 per cent will make a difference for seniors.”
“… just this little bit, extra bit of support, whether it’s for a wheelchair ramp or stability bars, could make the difference to keep that senior in their loving family home.”
Subsidies for Ontario ‘staycations’
It’s only November, but the province has already declared 2021 will be the “year of the Ontario staycation.”
While the Canada-U.S. border remains closed, Ontario’s government is encouraging people to travel within the province — and they’re going to provide financial support to help with travel expenses.
The province said in its budget it is “exploring ways” to give Ontarians support for up to 20 per cent of eligible tourism expenses, when public health experts say it’s safe.
The province is setting aside $150 million for what it calls a “temporary support measure.” It plans to consult stakeholders and announce more details later.
“This is an approach that has worked very well in other jurisdictions during other challenging times,” Phillips said.
A survey from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario found the situation for businesses in the province is “dire.”
The province is also earmarking $100 million over two years for a Community Building Fund to support local community tourism, heritage and culture nonprofits and municipal and nonprofit sport and recreation organizations.
NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said the budget “doesn’t take any new actions to make everyday Ontarians safer or healthier.”
“There’s not much of any help for everyday families and working folks in this budget,” she said. “It’s just not there.”
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