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The Ontario government has launched a plan to compensate people who lost income during the SARS outbreak.

Municipal Affairs Minister David Young said working Ontarians who were quarantined for at least five days, or who cared for someone in quarantine, will eligible for an "isolation payment" of $500.

Part-time workers would be eligible for a reduced payment of $250.

But Mr. Young said that individuals whose lost earnings were greater than these initial payments could apply for more assistance up to a maximum of $6,000.

In addition, individuals who missed work but received insufficient benefits - from Employment Insurance, private-insurance plans or from their employers - can apply for additional assistance.

"The SARS assistance program is designed to help those ordinary Ontarians who made extraordinary sacrifices, people who gave up their paycheques in order to protect others," Mr. Young told a news conference Friday at Queen's Park.

The program covers those who were directly affected by the SARS outbreak for at least five days after March 14. It is scheduled to end on June 30, although this could be extended if necessary.

Mr. Young estimated that up to 30,000 people could be eligible for compensation. He added, though, that many of the 27,000 people quarantined since the March outbreak have received full compensation from other sources.

Applicants will have to provide supporting information, such as statements from their employers, a doctor's letter, along with a statement from a guarantor certifying the facts of the situation.

Application forms will be available at www.sarshelp.gov.on.ca or by calling 800-476-9708. The program is operational immediately, Mr. Young said, and cheques could be sent out by early July.

Mr. Young said that the compensation program should cost between $10-million and $20-million and that he hopes the federal government will help foot the bill. He said he planned to raise the matter in a meeting next Thursday with Defence Minister John McCallum.

Earlier, the government announced a $190-million program to compensate doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health-care workers for income lost due to SARS.

There is no scheme yet to help those who lost income or their jobs as a result of the economic downturn in Toronto as a result of SARS. Mr. Young said the plan is to stimulate the economy to "get Toronto and Ontario back on its feet so those people can be employed again."

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