TORONTO — Ontario municipalities will receive up to $4 billion in funding to help cover the costs incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with up to half earmarked for public transit, the province said Monday.

Premier Doug Ford said the money, provided in partnership with the federal government, will be doled out in the coming months.

He did not give details on how it would be allocated to Ontario’s 444 municipalities, saying those details will be released in the next few weeks.

“Our municipalities have been hit hard by COVID-19…. The financial impact has been massive,” Ford said in a news conference.

“Ontario will be there for our municipal partners and our communities.”

The province said it is contributing $1.22 billion for municipalities, with Ottawa providing $777 million.

As well, up to $2 billion in transit funding will be split equally between the provincial and federal governments, the province said.

A spokesman for Ontario’s finance minister said the federal contribution is coming from the $7 billion Ottawa promised to the province as part of its pandemic relief package.

The Ontario government has yet to say how the rest of the relief funding will be spent.

Municipalities across Ontario have warned they would face significant budget shortfalls without financial assistance as a result of the pandemic, which would force them to cut services.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which has been vocal in calling for support, said the funding represents an “important investment in communities in every part of our province, and in Ontario’s economic recovery.”

The association’s president, Jamie McGarvey, said in a statement there should be a formula-based model to allocate the money.

“Today’s announcement reflects support for a broad array of costs, and it may call for multiple approaches to allocating the funding,” McGarvey said. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory, who previously said the city faced a $1.3 billion bill as a result of increased service needs during the pandemic, also welcomed the funding announcement.

“I think we’ll get a significant amount of money and that should go a long way to looking after the problem…. But until we have those exact numbers it’s hard to know what the impact will be, other than to say it will be very positive,” said Tory.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 27, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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