WoodGreen’s Insights on the 2020 Budget & Ontario’s Road to Recovery
Ontario’s Provincial Budget was recently released on November 5 and rightly focused on recovery in the COVID-19 era. With a record spending of $187 billion, the Budget provides a three-year outlook building on the government’s $30 billion response to COVID-19 as part of Ontario’s Action Plan.
While the ongoing pandemic has shown how quickly we can implement decisive policies and how resilient our province is, it has also highlighted crucial areas in need of improvement. From September 18 to October 16, 2020, the Government asked the public for ideas on what they’d like to see on the next phase of the Plan. WoodGreen contributed to the consultation process by providing key input based on our practical areas of expertise in order to maximize the impacts of the Province’s investments. Based on our review, we are pleased to note that several of our recommendations were considered in the 2020 Budget:
1. Continued investments in the enhancement of Employment Services
As a significant provider of employment services, WoodGreen has witnessed first-hand the increasing challenges and barriers that jobseekers continue to face throughout this pandemic. WoodGreen is currently leading applied research to develop innovative and effective approaches to ensuring the integration of older job seekers into the labour market.
WoodGreen remains a champion in supporting the revitalization of employment services in Ontario and encouraged the Province to increase its investments in support of Ontario’s workers to further enhance Employment Ontario and other skills training programming. We are pleased to note that the Province has committed to helping people retrain and upgrade their skills in the 2020 Budget by investing $100 million in funding over the next year through Employment Ontario for skills training programs for workers most affected by COVID-19. An additional $180.5 million over three years will also be invested towards micro-credentials and employment services and training programs development.
2. Continued investments in Senior & Community Health Services
COVID-19 has heightened the need to ensure vulnerable people have access to the full range of supports they require to be and remain healthy. It has also highlighted how on-the-ground relationships with vulnerable individuals are essential pathways to care. While continuing to provide our essential services, WoodGreen responded to the increasing need to support seniors with a Senior Helpline, pop-up testing sites and wraparound services that addressed isolation, community health, mental health, social programming and food security at a time when our community members needed it the most.
WoodGreen commends the Ontario Government for investing $17.2 million in 2021-2022 to further support the province’s seniors to stay engaged and combat social isolation during COVID-19. In the 2020 Budget, the Province additionally committed to continuing the Ontario Community Support Program by investing $16 million over two years to connect people with disabilities, older adults and others with underlying medical conditions who are self-isolating, with meals, medicines and other essentials while they stay at home. These additional investments will help community health service providers, like WoodGreen, to further expand our core services to support thousands more seniors and vulnerable community members while staying home and staying safe.
3. Enhanced investments to address Affordable Housing & Youth Homelessness
COVID-19 has underscored how deeply intertwined housing is with health and wellbeing. As Toronto’s largest non-municipal provider of community housing, WoodGreen – through a recently launched housing fund – is working with partners from the private, public and community sectors to contribute much needed new and affordable housing stock. We are glad to see that the Province has taken additional steps to alleviate the housing crisis by investing $510 million through the Social Services Relief Fund to help municipal service managers and Indigenous housing partners create longer-term housing solutions.
We welcome the additional investments in housing support in the 2020 Budget and commend the moratorium introduced by the Government of Ontario to allow the province’s youth to remain in care during the pandemic. As a community-based service provider for young people transitioning out of the child welfare, however; we recognize that there’s still more work to be done. WoodGreen encourages the Government of Ontario to introduce dedicated funding streams to support the collaborative work necessary to overcome this important issue so that every youth in Ontario has the opportunity to thrive.
As the province continues to transition into a phase of recovery, WoodGreen Community Services is here to support the Ontario Government as it works to ensure our health care system, communities and economy are positioned to weather the challenges ahead.