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Monday, July 27, 2020

Ontario announces $4 billion pandemic recovery fund for municipalities

Toronto's hard-hit public transit system could soon get a much-needed financial boost from the provincial government after months of severe ridership decline amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Or not.

It all depends on how the province chooses to split up the $4 billion in funding it just pledged toward helping all 444 Ontario municipalities stay afloat during this unprecedented time.

Premier Doug Ford announced the provincial-federal funding agreement on Monday afternoon during his daily press conference, explaining that Ontario had managed to secure part of the eight-figure sum through Canada's Safe Restart Agreement.

"Ontario municipalities told us they are dealing with a $4 billion shortfall as a result of COVID-19," said Finance Minister Phillips of the program.

"Failing to act could result in cuts to services and higher taxes. That's why, under Premier Ford's leadership, Ontario was a strong advocate at the negotiating table to ensure municipalities and transit systems were supported as part of the Safe Restart Agreement. This is a historic level of support that's being provided during unprecedented times."

While officials have yet to provide a breakdown of how much money each municipality will receive, the province says the funding is meant to "help local governments maintain the critical services people rely on every day, including public transit, over the next six to eight months."

Up to $2 billion has been pledged specifically toward public transit as part of the agreement, with costs to be shared equally between the provincial and federal governments.

"Transit operators that have seen steep declines in revenues will receive the support they need to help address the financial impacts of COVID-19 and continue their operations in a safe manner," reads a release announcing the news.

"Transit operators across Ontario have done an incredible job ensuring that people who need to get around, including our frontline workers, have safe and reliable transit service during the outbreak," said Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney.

"This funding will help ensure transit services continue to be there so people can get where they need to go as our province reopens and people return to work."

Details about how (and where) the $4 billion will be allocated are expected in the coming weeks. Here's to hoping the TTC gets enough cash to avoid a drastic cut to current service levels.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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