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B.C. COVID-19 recovery plan mishmash of old and new funding

Last Updated Sep 17, 2020 at 8:50 pm PDT

Summary

B.C.'s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes investing $1.5 billion in health care, jobs and communities

The recovery plan includes hiring 7,000 more health-care workers

The province also plans to a offer a 15 per cent refundable tax credit to help businesses grow and rehire staff

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s $1.5 billion economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic offers few new ideas, with only a few hundred million in new tax measures and a focus on health care jobs and business grants.

B.C.’s Economic Recovery Plan, released by the province Thursday, outlines spending more than $400 million for jobs and training, another $400 million to help businesses recover, along with $300 million for communities overall, although some of the money was previously announced.

The plan also includes $660 million in new tax measures, along with a 15-per-cent, refundable tax credit to help businesses grow and rehire staff.

“As British Columbians, we’ve been through a lot recently. We know our recovery won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on people and taking care of each other, we will ensure there are better days ahead for all of us,” Premier John Horgan says.

“The steps we are taking now will improve health care, get people back to work, support B.C. businesses, and strengthen our neighbourhoods and communities.”

Of the jobs funding, $300 million is targeted for the the health-care sector, including the previously announced Hospital at Home program. New jobs in that sector include contract tracers and screening staff at care homes.

The plan also includes a previously announced intention to hire more than 5,000 more health-care workers, as well as skills training in child care.

Of funding for businesses, $300 million is for the small- and medium-sized business recovery grant.

“It will also introduce a small- and medium-sized business recovery grant to support approximately 15,000 hard-hit businesses, while protecting as many as 200,000 jobs,” the province says.

Funding for communities includes $100 million for the COVID-19 economic recovery infrastructure program.

The province will also invest $100 million to support tourism-related businesses and communities. That money includes grants for shovel-ready projects.

“Tourism operators will be eligible for a special top-up.”

In March, the province announced a $5 billion pandemic response plan, which included $1.5 billion for economic recovery measures. That is in addition to $660 million in tax measures and more than $1.86 billion in federal and provincial restart funding for municipalities, transit, and education.

B.C.’s total provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic is $9.6 billion, of which $8.3 billion are provincial measures. That includes $220 million in relief funding, including $90 million for technology and innovation.

B.C. projected a $227 million surplus before the coronavirus pandemic, but last week announced it is expecting a $12.8 billion deficit for 2020-21.

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Finance Minister Carole James said then the finance ministry is forecasting the economy to contract by 6.7 per cent in 2020 before expanding by three per cent in 2021.

Since the start of the pandemic, the wholesale and retail trade sector has seen 33-per-cent decline in jobs.

The information, culture and recreation, as well as construction sectors all saw job losses of more than 20 per cent.

However, as of August, almost 250,000 jobs had been restored, equal to 62 per cent of the total jobs lost due to the pandemic, according to the report.

“When COVID-19 first hit, we acted quickly to keep people safe and support those in need. While we are now starting to see hopeful signs of recovery, we know many people are still
struggling and there is a lot of work left to do,” James says.

“British Columbians are pulling together, and we’ll be there to support them every step of the way. Our province has a strong foundation to build a recovery that creates opportunities for all.”

James said all the funding in the plan has been approved and is “ready to go out the door.”

The economic plan comes as speculation swirls that a snap election could be called any day.

“I’ve not made a decision about an election,” Horgan said.

Read the plan:

StrongerBC - BCs Economic Recovery Report