Ontario announces new programs to help hospitality workers and apprentices amid COVID-19 pandemic


At a May 22 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford discussed additional measures to help cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and announced that Ontario will further help people impacted by COVID-19 get back to work as the economy gradually reopens.

Today (May 22), the province announced that it is investing in an online counselling and training portal, called Ontario’s first Virtual Action Centre, which will support laid off and unemployed hospitality workers.

The announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

The province also announced that it is helping apprentices by providing grants to purchase tools, protective equipment and clothing for their trade as well as forgiving previous loans to purchase tools. 

“The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for many business owners, workers, and families, and that’s why we are doing everything we can to help people through this difficult period,” said Premier Ford.

“Hospitality workers and our skilled tradespeople have been among those hardest hit by this pandemic. These new programs will ensure they’re ready to get back on the job and play an important role in our economic recovery.”

The government is providing an Ontario Tools Grant of $2.5 million in 2020-21 and $7.5 million in 2021-22 and ongoing, which will help new eligible apprentices purchase the equipment they need to start their careers.

The funding amounts will be distributed as follows: $1,000 for those in motive power sector trades, $600 for those in construction and industrial sector trades and $400 for those in service sector trades.

To be eligible for the new grant, apprentices must have completed level 1 training on or after April 1, 2020, have an active registered training agreement and have been registered as an apprentice for at least 12 months.

Additionally, the government is forgiving over $10 million in outstanding loans owed by apprentices for tool purchases made at the beginning of their careers.

The Loans for Tools Program allowed thousands of new apprentices to purchase tools, equipment, clothing, manuals and code books that were required for their trade.

Roughly 19,000 apprentices who participated in the program owed, on average, $495.

“If we are going to rebuild our economy, we must reach out and help the workers and businesses that are suffering as a result of COVID-19,” said Minister McNaughton.

“The programs that we are announcing today will leave more money in the pockets of our apprentices and support those hospitality workers who have been laid-off by providing access to the training and services they need to recover and rejoin the workforce.”

The government is also investing almost $2 million to open a Virtual Action Centre in partnership with UNITE HERE Local 75 and this the resource will provide access to a range of services and supports online and over the phone to up to 7,000 unemployed workers in the hospitality sector.

The services will include stress management and mental health resources through video conferencing, immediate health and safety online training for workers who return to work at designated quarantined sites, technical skills online training, online training to upgrade English language and digital skills and peer group facilitation and employment preparation through videoconferencing.

UNITE HERE is a union that represents workers in hotels, restaurants, racetracks and casinos, laundry and food service companies, airport concessions and apparel, textile and general manufacturing and distribution centers and will operate the Virtual Action Centre. 

“Ontario’s hotel and hospitality sectors create thousands of jobs across the province,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

“This new virtual platform will make sure that those workers are supported as we gradually reopen the province and prepare our $35 billion tourism sector to welcome visitors back.”


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