The Ontario government has unveiled a $17-billion aid package aimed at helping residents, businesses and the health care sector in response to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips made the announcement in Ontario’s economic and fiscal update, which provides a one-year outlook on the province’s finances based on current predictions, during an emergency sitting at Queen’s Park Wednesday afternoon.

The package was split into two parts: $7 billion in direct support and $10 billion in business tax and other tax-related deferrals. The increased spending combined with other factors is estimated to result in a provincial deficit of $20.5 billion for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Subject to approval in the legislature, the health care sector will receive $3.3 billion in assistance — a majority of that funding is in direct response to COVID-19. Some of the funding was previously announced under a $304-million COVID-19 immediate response plan.

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Among the health care-related measures is a $1-billion contingency fund to respond to emerging issues related to fighting the virus, $935 million for hospitals (increasing capacity, adding critical care beds, creating more COVID-19 assessment centres), $124 million for transitional projects (spaces to house less serious hospital patients in order to free up hospital beds), $243 million to provide emergency long-term care beds and virus containment measures at facilities, $80 million for paramedic services, $100 million in funding for public health units and $75 million for personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

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