"Employment in Ontario decreased by 11,900 in December. Despite this decrease, employment in the manufacturing sector increased by 16,400. In the last seven months, Ontario's employment increased by 893,300. Today, 29,600 more men and women are working in the manufacturing sector than pre-COVID.
On December 21, 2020, in response to the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases, our government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, imposed a Provincewide Shutdown. This difficult, but necessary, step was put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, preserve health system capacity, and protect vulnerable populations and those who care for them.
While the shutdown is intended to keep people safe, we are acutely aware that people across Ontario continue to struggle during this challenging period. And that's why we are providing significant support to businesses, workers and families as we continue to plan for our economic recovery and the future.
To help businesses that are struggling we are introducing a new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help eligible small business owners who needed to close or significantly restrict their services during the shutdown. Each eligible small business will be able to use this funding in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. People will be able to apply for this support beginning later this month.
Our government is also providing $600-million for property tax and energy bill rebates to support businesses required to close or significantly restrict services because of public health restrictions.
In addition, we are providing tax relief which includes a proposal to provide municipalities with the ability to cut property taxes for small businesses and reduce business education taxes. The province has also permanently increased the Employer Health Tax (EHT) payroll exemption to $1 million, meaning 90 per cent of employers pay no EHT.
The people of this province are making difficult sacrifices to stop the spread of this virus, often at great personal cost. But through it all they have continued to support one another, working together in the fight against this terrible virus. It is that Ontario Spirit that will power the economic recovery of Canada's job-creation engine as we look towards a brighter future together."
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