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B.C. announces $5-billion action plan to deal with COVID-19

Last Updated Mar 23, 2020 at 7:12 pm PST

FILE - Premier John Horgan announced a $5-billion action plan Monday, March 23, 2020 to help British Columbians and businesses cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Summary

About $2.8 billion is to help people and provide services

No one will lose their home due to virus, but no blanket ban on evictions: finance minster

One-time, tax-free $1,000 payment to workers in British Columbia

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Premier John Horgan announced a $5-billion action plan Monday to help British Columbians and businesses cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

About $2.8 billion is to help people and provide services, while the rest is for businesses and recovery.

“People need help now,” Horgan said. “Businesses need help now.”

He added the province needs to ensure the most vulnerable people in society are taken care of, but not all relief will come at once.

Finance Minister Carole James announced $1.1 billion of new funding, not previously allocated in the provincial budget, will provide relief to workers and their families.

“We know that there are people now who are unable to work and need help paying their rent and bills,” James said.

“A new B.C. emergency benefit for workers will provide a one-time, tax-free $1,000 payment to workers in British Columbia whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak.”

This includes workers who have been laid-off, who are sick or quarantined, parents with sick children, parents who stay at home from work while child care centres and schools are closed, and those caring for sick family members, such as an elderly parent.

The benefit will be available to those eligible for Employment Insurance, as well as new federal emergency supports.

“So this will add to benefits received under those federal supports,” she added.

The new B.C. benefit will also support those who may not qualify for employment insurances, James said.

She further announced that B.C. is expanding criteria for housing supplements for seniors and the working poor, and reiterated no one in subsidized housing will evicted.

The province is not banning evictions, she added, but James said she hopes landlords will be understanding during the pandemic.

“As many as 86 per cent of British Columbians will see some extra money from this enhancement,” says a government release. “Eligible families of four will receive up to $564 and eligible individuals will receive up to $218 in an enhanced payment. This boosts the regular climate action tax credit payment of up to $112.50 per family of four and up to $43.50 per adult.”

James added social services, including child care providers, will still be paid even if they’re forced to temporarily close.

The action plan provides $1.7 billion for critical services in B.C.

“The $1.7 billion includes investments in housing and shelter supports, income and disability assistance programs and crucial health services, such as funding for the BC Centre for Disease Control hotline, quarantine costs, lab tests and work underway at the First Nations Health Authority and the United Way’s Better at Home program for seniors,” says the release.

As well, as of March 30, all student loan payments will be paused until September.

James said further that BC Hydro is working with customers to defer bills and access a crisis fund for up to $600.

Meanwhile, ICBC customers will be able renew policies online.

In addition to the employer health tax, the province is also extending tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax, municipal and regional district taxes, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax until Sept. 30.

The scheduled April 1 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new PST registration requirements on e-commerce and the implementation of PST on sweetened carbonated drinks, will also be delayed and their timing will be reviewed by Sept. 30.

The plan also provides $500 million in immediate relief for businesses that own property and allow commercial landlords to pass savings on to tenants.

James said the new action plan is to be voted on in the legislature Monday.