The provincial government has announced $200 million in social services funding to municipalities amid a worsening COVID-19 outbreak that has now claimed the lives of six Ontarians.

The money is intended to help municipalities and social service providers “continue to deliver their critical services, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy” amid the pandemic, the province says.

It will be distributed to Ontario’s 47 municipalities with local service managers responsible for dictating how it will be spent.

 "Our government will spare no expense to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians," Premier Doug Ford said in a press release. "We are doing our part to show the Ontario spirit and we will make sure no one gets left behind. Organizations across the province are doing critical work right now to help vulnerable Ontarians and these funds will allow them to directly help those who need it most." 

The announcement from the provincial government comes after anti-poverty advocates in Toronto held a Monday morning press conference to call for a “rapid and dramatic increase” in shelter spaces during the pandemic.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and the Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) say that more shelter spaces are needed to “allow for social distancing and physical isolation” and protect the homeless from contracting the virus.

They also say that any expansion should include new drop-in spaces to “compensate for the closure of lunch programs, coffee shops, and municipal facilities like libraries and community centres” which have “near eliminated” the infrastructure the homeless rely on for food, indoor space and sanitation.

"We fear the worst is to come," OCAP spokesperson Yogi Acharya told reporters.

"I implore all three levels of government, you have to act,” outreach worker Greg Cook added.

In addition to the funding for social services, the province has also announced that it will establish an expanded emergency assistance program that will be administered through Ontario Works and design to cover the immediate needed of “individuals who do not qualify for emergency financial supports under federal programs.”

"Protecting our most vulnerable is an absolute priority, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop," Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith said in the press release.

The money is intended to help municipalities and social service providers “continue to deliver their critical services, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy” amid the pandemic, the province says.

It will be distributed to Ontario’s 47 municipalities with local service managers responsible for dictating how it will be spent.

"Our government will spare no expense to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians," Premier Doug Ford said in a press release. "We are doing our part to show the Ontario spirit and we will make sure no one gets left behind. Organizations across the province are doing critical work right now to help vulnerable Ontarians and these funds will allow them to directly help those who need it most."

The announcement from the provincial government comes after anti-poverty advocates in Toronto held a Monday morning press conference to call for a “rapid and dramatic increase” in shelter spaces during the pandemic.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and the Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) say that more shelter spaces are needed to “allow for social distancing and physical isolation” and protect the homeless from contracting the virus.

They also say that any expansion should include new drop-in spaces to “compensate for the closure of lunch programs, coffee shops, and municipal facilities like libraries and community centres” which have “near eliminated” the infrastructure the homeless rely on for food, indoor space and sanitation.

"We fear the worst is to come," OCAP spokesperson Yogi Acharya told reporters.

"I implore all three levels of government, you have to act,” outreach worker Greg Cook added.

In addition to the funding for social services, the province has also announced that it will establish an expanded emergency assistance program that will be administered through Ontario Works and design to cover the immediate needed of “individuals who do not qualify for emergency financial supports under federal programs.”

"Protecting our most vulnerable is an absolute priority, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop," Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith said in the press release.