THUNDER BAY - With the province slowly working at reopening the economy, it is taking steps to help workers laid off reenter the workforce.
During the daily media briefing on Friday, Premier Doug Ford announced new programs and grants to assist hospitality workers and skilled trade workers.
“Tourism and hospitality sectors have been among the hardest hit,” Ford said. “We are doing everything we can to help.”
The provincial government is investing $2 million into a Virtual Action Centre to provide online counseling, training, and support for to laid off or unemployed hospitality workers.
The online tool is in partnership with UNITE HERE Local 75 and will provide stress management and mental health resources via video conferencing, health and safety online training, technical skills training, online training to upgrade English language and digital skills, and employment preparation.
"Ontario's hotel and hospitality sectors create thousands of jobs across the province," said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries in a release. "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."
UNITE HERE Local 75 represents workers in the hospitality, food service, and manufacturing sectors and will be operating the Virtual Action Centre.
"We are very grateful for the generous support of the Ontario government," said Guled Warsame, president of UNITE HERE Local 75.
"This support will provide services and skills training to our members who are laid-off due to COVID-19. We know that people are at the heart of the hospitality industry. We are very grateful and proud to work with the provincial government to ensure that people are provided with support and the opportunity to upgrade their skills and get back to work as soon as possible."
The province is also investing millions to help get skilled trades people back to work.
The government will be offering a Ontario Tools Grant of $2.5 million in 2020 and 2021 and an additional $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022 to allow apprentices to purchase tools and equipment.
Those working in the power sector are eligible for $1,000, those in the construction and industrial sector can receive $600, and $400 for those in service sector trades.
To be eligible for the grant, individuals must have completed level 1 training on or after April 1, 2020, be an active registered training agreement, and been registered as an apprentice for at least 12 months.
"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," Ford said. "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 provincial government is also forgiving more than $10 million in outstanding loans owed by apprentices to purchase tools and equipment under its Loans for Tools program.
More than 19,000 apprentices participated in the program and owed and average of $495 each.