PROVINCIAL UPDATE: The Ontario Government Releases Budget for 2021-22
Posted On March 24, 2021
The Ontario government will continue to focus on protecting people’s health and jobs through the COVID-19 pandemic when Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, releases the 2021 Ontario Budget on March 24, 2021. The Budget will support the province’s comprehensive vaccine distribution plan, along with providing additional resources for the health care sector and initiatives to protect the economic well-being of families, workers and employers.
Ontario is announcing a wide range of initiatives to help the tourism, hospitality and culture sectors survive the COVID‑19 pandemic and thrive in the future. In the 2021 Budget, Ontario is investing more than $400 million over the next three years in new initiatives to support these sectors. This builds on investments of $225 million announced earlier, bringing the total to more than $625 million since the pandemic began..
Standing Behind Ontario’s Arts Community
To support the arts sector during COVID‑19, the government is increasing its investment in Ontario’s arts community by $10 million in 2021–22. With support from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), this increased investment will assist with significant costs incurred when preparing for activities and events that could not go forward in 2020–21. It will also help with financial impacts that occurred from the loss of box office revenue and venue rental income, as well as new costs related to health and safety, and digital or virtual programming. This new investment will help arts organizations throughout the province adapt their programming as they rebuild their audience, membership and donor bases. It will also support jobs at the local level for musicians, writers, painters, actors, dancers, stagehands and many others who support Ontario’s arts and culture industry.
Introducing the Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant
Ontario recognizes that there are many businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector that require support to get through this difficult time. This is why the government is introducing the new Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant, which will provide an estimated $100 million in one‑time payments of $10,000 to $20,000 to eligible small businesses.
As they look ahead to the upcoming spring and summer tourism season, these eligible small businesses can apply for support to help them recover from the impacts of COVID‑19 as well as to help create and protect jobs. Businesses must demonstrate they have experienced a minimum 20 percent revenue decline and have less than 100 employees to qualify. Applying online will be easy. Further details can be obtained at Ontario.ca/COVIDsupport.
Any small businesses that received the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will not be eligible for this new grant.
Helping Ontario’s Tourism Industry Recover and Rebuild
Ontario is introducing the Ontario Tourism Recovery Program, a new $100 million initiative for 2021–22 to help tourism operators, anchor businesses and attractions recover from the impacts of COVID‑19. This initiative will provide support for historically successful businesses that have helped to drive employment and visitation in their regions by assisting with costs related to restructuring, safe reopening, recalibrated marketing activities and partnership development.
Encouraging Residents to Vacation within Ontario when it is Safe
Public health and safety measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID‑19, while necessary, have affected tourism across Ontario. In the 2020 Budget, the government announced that it would explore ways to provide Ontario residents with support of up to 20 per cent for eligible Ontario tourism expenses to encourage them to discover the province in 2021. To this end, the government has set aside $150 million and intends to introduce legislation for a tax credit to encourage residents to explore Ontario when public health experts advise that it is safe to travel.
Ontario is committing to supporting tourism across the province through increased funding of up to $15 million for the Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs) in 2021–22. The initiative will help stabilize and support the tourism sector’s efforts to attract domestic and international visitors when it is safe to do so. It will support the continued operation of Destination Toronto, Ottawa Tourism, and the 11 additional RTOs for the recovery of regional tourism, and to maintain and produce new, innovative tourism services and experiences under a modernized mandate.
Doubling the Ontario Small Business Support Grant
While some restrictions have been lifted and certain businesses can now safely reopen, the severe economic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic persist for many small businesses. Protecting these vital employers in Ontario communities is an urgent priority, which is why the government is announcing that an additional round of support will be provided through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. Small businesses who have been determined as eligible recipients of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will automatically be entitled to a second payment in an amount equal to the first payment they received. They will not need to apply again to receive this additional funding.
Through these two rounds of support, it is projected that the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will deliver an estimated $3.4 billion to approximately 120,000 small businesses in Ontario, helping them through this difficult time and protecting jobs.
Enhancing the Digital Main Street Program
In June 2020, Ontario, in partnership with the federal government, announced the Digital Main Street platform, a $57 million program designed to help up to 22,900 Ontario businesses create and enhance their online presence. Digital Main Street is helping businesses expand their digital footprint and extend their reach into new markets. To date, the program has been able to provide close to 20,000 Main Street small businesses with support for their digital expansions. The program will also generate jobs for more than 1,400 students.
In the 2021 Budget, Ontario is investing an additional $10 million in the Digital Main Street program in 2021–22 to help more small businesses achieve a digital transformation and serve customers effectively online. The program will continue to provide digital transformation grants, an online learning platform, training programs, and Digital Service Squads offering technical support to small business owners.
Providing Additional Support to Ontario’s Small Businesses
Other supports the government has already introduced that will support small businesses include:
Helping eligible small businesses with the unexpected costs of PPE with one‑time grants of up to $1,000 through Ontario’s Main Street Relief Grant.
Partnering with the federal government to provide $976 million in urgent rent relief through the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses program. In addition, the government has extended the temporary ban on commercial evictions for those business tenants that are approved for the federal Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS).
Providing property tax and energy cost rebates to help eligible businesses in the Control, Lockdown or Provincewide Shutdown regions (or previously in Modified Stage 2 regions).
Providing $8 million for the COVID‑19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business to support businesses struggling with bill payments as a result of the COVID‑19 outbreak.
Providing about $320 million in additional relief in 2020–21 through off‑peak electricity pricing, 24 hours a day, for eligible residential, farm and small business customers during periods of provincial restrictions from March 24, 2020 to May 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021 to February 22, 2021.
Ontario Supporting infrastructure
Ontario is investing around $200 million to provide infrastructure funding to larger, strategic projects and to sports facilities through the newly established Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund. This fund will help address some of the unmet demand under the Community, Culture and Recreation stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), which received more applications than could be funded under that program.The fund will also support the sport and recreation sector, which was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID‑19 pandemic.
The Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund is delivered through two streams. The Priority Local Infrastructure stream will support new build multi‑purpose facilities for community, culture and recreation purposes. The Sport and Community Renewal stream provides funding to support the renovation and rehabilitation of sport and community infrastructure.
Helping Northern Ontario’s Economic Recovery
To help businesses and communities, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) is changing to better serve the Northern economy. In September 2020, the government launched the short-term Northern Ontario Recovery Program (NORP), through the NOHFC, to respond to the challenges of the COVID‑19 pandemic. This $20 million program has aided in the recovery from COVID‑19 by helping Northern companies adapt their operations to meet new public health guidelines, protect employees and customers and rebuild consumer confidence.
In February 2021, the government announced an improved NOHFC program with a focus on culture, talent, business development and community infrastructure. Alongside these program changes, an additional $50 million over the next two years will be allocated to the NOHFC to support investments in infrastructure, culture, economic development and training. These new programs will help increase economic development and promote job creation in all regions of the North.