Hastings and Prince Edward among first regions to transition back to less-restrictive Green level

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MONDAY, FEB. 8, 2021

BAY OF QUINTE – Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, confirmed the easing of restrictions for businesses and social gatherings in the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health area Wednesday as it will be one of three regions reverting to the Green level of the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework.

“Due to the sacrifices the people of Quinte made to adhere strictly to public health guidance, our region was among the first to re-open schools and it will again lead the Province in the resumption of business. That helps revitalize our economy,” said Smith. “Thank you everyone for doing your part to help our community move forward. I’m especially appreciative of the essential and frontline workers who have worked hard and shown incredible dedication throughout this pandemic.”

The decision to return Hastings Prince Edward to Green is based on improving key indicators locally, including lower transmission of COVID-19, improving hospital capacity, and available public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management. The change will take place at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday Feb. 10. Other health units moving forward include neighbouring Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington and Renfrew County and District.

While the government still advises strict adherence to public health measures such as proper hand hygiene, physical distancing, and wearing a facemask and still discourages non-essential travel, within Green-level zones, it has increased limits for gatherings in private settings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors and those in staffed businesses and facilities, where physical distancing can be maintained to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Religious services, including weddings and funerals, can be staged at 30-per-cent capacity of the room or with up to 100 people outdoors.

Retail operations may resume in-person operations with passive screening signage in place and they are required to prepare a safety plan in accordance with workplace safety guidance. Restaurants, personal care services, gaming establishments, cinemas, meeting spaces, sports and fitness facilities, and performing arts venues also may welcome patrons in accordance with safety plans and conditions.

While these three regions have been able to proceed at the Green level, the 28 remaining health units will remain under stay-at-home orders at this time, limiting travel between zones. The majority of the health units will return to the framework on Feb. 16, while those in Toronto, Peel, and York will return on Feb. 22. All remaining health units will transition to the framework at the colour level that corresponds to their case levels and hospital capacity at that time.

“Our government has recognized that some parts of the province are not in the same position we are in locally, so we’ve kept that stay-at-home order in place to reduce travel between zones and the threat of further exposure,” said Smith. “We will continue to monitor the data and listen to the advice of our medical professionals to ensure our region remains safe.”

Smith noted that as part of Monday’s announcement, the government has provided Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams an “emergency brake” that will allow him to work with local medical officers of health to recommend immediate measures to interrupt transmission.

Dr. Williams indicated that while today’s announcement is a positive step, it remains crucial that the public continues to take cautious measures.

“While we are seeing our numbers trend in the right direction, our situation remains precarious as the variants of concern remain a serious risk," said Williams. "By continuing to follow all public health and workplace safety measures, we can continue to reduce the number of new cases and the strain on our health system."

To learn about the rules in a Green level, please read the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework at https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Learn more about how the Government of Ontario continues to protect its people from COVID-19 by visiting covid-19.ontario.ca.
  • Learn about Ontario’s vaccination plan at covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-vaccines-ontario.
  • Learn about support programs for businesses at ontario.ca/covidsupport.
  • Find out about provincial supports for individuals at ontario.ca/page/covid-19-support-people.
  • Learn more about the full rage of provincial and federal programs for individuals and businesses at www.covidsupports.ca/bayofquinte.

MPP Smith provides update on expanded supports through Ontario Autism Program

TORONTO — The Ontario government is providing additional supports for families of children on the autism spectrum. Starting in March, the province will begin offering core clinical services based on a child's individual needs, a key element of the new Ontario Autism Program. These services include applied behaviour analysis, speech language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health supports.

Recognizing the challenges and uncertainty families are facing as a result of COVID-19, the government will be offering an additional extension of funding to purchase eligible services and supports parents feel are most appropriate for their children as the province continues to implement a needs-based autism program. Further details about eligibility and how to apply for the extension of funding will be shared in the coming weeks.

“Providing core clinical services is a critical step forward in the development of a needs-based autism program designed by the community for the community” said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and MPP for Bay of Quinte. “We are determined to get this right so more children than ever before can receive the appropriate level of support they need close to home.”

The ministry has asked the Child and Parent Resource Institute to oversee the launch of core clinical services. Beginning this month, care coordinators will be trained to conduct and guide families through the new determination of needs process that will include:

  • meeting with a family to identify a child's goals, strengths and support needs across key domains
  • allocating funding to families so they can purchase core clinical services from providers of their choice
  • supporting families with next steps to access core clinical services of their choice

Starting in March, about 600 children and youth from across the province who are registered in the Ontario Autism Program will be invited to participate in the launch of core clinical services. Once families have received their funding allocation, they will then work directly with a clinician of their choice to develop treatment options and plans for their child. The feedback from families on their experience will be critical in helping the province evaluate and refine delivery of the program.

Additionally, families will benefit from:

  • Renewal of interim funding: Eligible families who received a childhood budget or interim one-time funding will be offered additional payments of either $5,000 or $20,000, based on their child's age, to purchase eligible services and supports they feel are most appropriate for their child.
  • Urgent response services: Initiating a community-based proposal process to identify organizations in the sector to deliver urgent response services. These services will provide a timely, rapid response to a specific, identified need to prevent further escalation.
  • A $3.8 million additional investment in diagnostic hubs to improve families' access to an assessment for their child by reducing waitlists and wait times, resulting in families being able to register for the Ontario Autism Program and access services as quickly as possible.
  • Increased oversight of clinicians providing applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy in Ontario. The government will introduce legislation to regulate ABA as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario, beginning with applied behaviour analysts in supervisory and assessment-focused roles.
“We are incredibly proud of the extensive work that has gone into developing these key elements of our needs-based and family-centred Ontario Autism Program, which we will continue to evaluate on an ongoing basis," said Minister Smith. "It's important that we are responsive to the individual needs of children and youth and that their families are supported every step of the way.”
Quick Facts
  • The government launched foundational family services, such as family and peer mentoring, caregiver workshops and coaching, in August 2020 as part of Ontario’s needs-based Ontario Autism Program.
  • Several selection processes are currently underway to select organizations that will deliver services that will be part of the new needs-based Ontario Autism Program, including for the Independent Intake Organization and the caregiver-mediated early years programs.
  • In July 2019, the Ontario Autism Program budget was increased from approximately $300 million to $600 million annually to help ensure it is both needs-based and sustainable moving forward

Additional Resources


Quinte businesses benefit from Ontario’s Digital Main Street Program support

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021

Quinte businesses benefit from Ontario’s Digital Main Street Program support

BAY OF QUINTE – In Belleville and Quinte West, 33 businesses have benefitted through Ontario’s Digital Main Street Program and Student Digital Service Squads, a $57-million partnership between the provincial and federal governments designed to expand e-commerce amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local small businesses requiring assistance to launch and expand their online stores could access $2,500 in government grants, tech-savvy students, and online training to improve their digital presence. Throughout 2020, Belleville businesses benefitted from $85,000 in support. Some 26 businesses received Digital Transformation Grants, while others accessed counselling and student support. Quinte West businesses received $43,750 in support with seven businesses receiving Digital Transformation Grants. Information about program participation in Prince Edward County has yet to be released.

“Our region’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our community. By choosing to shop local, we all benefit,” said Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte. “The Digital Service Squads are helping our businesses transition online, allowing them to access new customers safely and reliable. This will have a positive impact on these businesses during this pandemic and for years to come.”

Students working in this program assess a business’s digital literacy and provide:

  • Information on how to access the Digital Main Street digital transformation training program;
  • Help in creating a digital transformation plan and applying for and spending the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant;
  • Support to create or update a website and adopt best practices;
  • Advice on social media promotion and advertising;
  • Technological support and recommendations on tools for specific business needs;
  • Advice on additional digital transformation support including loyalty programs, point-of-sale systems, e-commerce and back-end business operations support.

Digital Service Squads across the province are already on track to help thousands of small businesses across Ontario develop their online offerings. This is meeting a critical need for many Ontario businesses as they transition to online storefronts.

“Confronting the economic impacts from COVID-19 is a team effort and, through the Ontario Digital Main Street Program and Digital Service Squads, we’re enlisting students to help our local small businesses get up and running online,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “I encourage all Ontarians to use their purchasing power to support local by buying their goods virtually from local small businesses today and into the future.”

The program is administered by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, which works with participating municipalities, Chambers of Commerce and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs). The Digital Service Squads are an important part of the Digital Main Street platform that is expected to help up to 22,900 Ontario businesses create and enhance their online presence and generate jobs for more than 1,400 students.

“Digital Services Squads are the true heart of the Digital Main Street initiative,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of the Ontario BIA Association. “By working directly with main street small businesses, the passionate students that do work on squads bring local business owners the knowledge, tools, and hands-on support they need to transform to brick-and-click operations. In this way, our downtown cores can continue to be strong and vibrant while also giving local businesses the online presence to thrive through the pandemic and beyond.”

Currently, only about 60 per cent of Ontario’s small enterprises have a website and only seven per cent accept online payment. Through Digital Main Street, Ontario’s businesses are adopting new tools that will allow them to reach a wider customer base and help them weather the economic impacts of COVID-19.

QUICK FACTS

  • The Ontario 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover outlined more than $13.5 billion in support for people and jobs.
  • The Main Street Relief Grant provides up to $1,000 to help eligible small businesses for the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE). The Main Street Relief Grant is available to small businesses with two to nine employees in retail, accommodations and food services, repair and maintenance, and personal and laundry services to help cover personal protective equipment costs.
  • Ontario’s Small Business Support Grant provides a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $20,000 to eligible small businesses who have had to restrict their operations due to the province-wide shutdown.
  • Eligible businesses can apply for more than $600 million in support through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, Ontario Main Street Relief Grant: PPE Support and temporary property tax and energy cost rebates through a single online application portal at Ontario.ca/covidsupport.
  • In October, the government launched Ontario’s Main Street Recovery Plan and introduced the Main Street Recovery Act, 2020, legislation that will support small businesses and modernize rules to allow them to innovate and meet the challenges of today. The act will remove hurdles faced by small businesses and allow them to pursue new opportunities — while maintaining or enhancing protections for public health, safety and the environment.
  • The Digital Main Street platform is a $57 million program jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments. It is part of Ontario’s support for small businesses through Ontario’s Main Street Recovery Plan.
  • Ontario is also investing an additional $150 million in rural broadband which will help open the digital road for many Ontario small businesses.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Find small business grants and recovery resources at Ontario.ca/smallbusiness.
  • Learn how you can stop the spread of COVID-19 at Ontario.ca/