Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said that the federal government needs to move faster to provide financial aid to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think a priority right now, and I was speaking with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and others, is the speed with which those programs, in particular the federal program, become available,” Phillips said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg on Friday.

“I think there is an urgency to getting cash into individuals’ pockets as well as the support for businesses.”

The federal government announced the creation of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit last month to help Canadians who have lost their income as a result of the pandemic. On Monday, more than 300,000 Canadians applied for the emergency relief in the first hours of availability, according to federal officials. 

Phillips also flagged the importance of government programs to help make sure Canadian businesses have the support they need, in light of the latest jobs report showing the province lost 403,000 jobs in March.

“We’ve seen some fairly large employers turn back layoff decisions but you know 403,000 jobs, that’s devastating for families here in Ontario and we know that those statistics are nowhere near to the end of this,” Phillips said.

To make sure that the businesses are prepared for life after COVID-19, Ontario ​Premier Doug Ford announced the creation of the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee on Friday. The group will be tasked with making sure the Ontario economy is able to bounce back after stores reopen.

“That work has already begun. Looking and understanding what the models are telling us, building scenarios relative to those models, understanding better than we could have before,” Phillips said.

“I think there’s a number of places where we can move quickly and we are going to be having to look at what’s the economy going to look like post-COVID-19. Not just from a size and scale [standpoint], but how are we going to do things differently.”