BC announces $5B economic action plan to support people and businesses

Mar 23 2020, 12:23 pm

BC Premier John Horgan has announced a $5 billion economic “action plan” that is being put in place to help support people and businesses in British Columbia as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“The COVID-19 pandemic challenges our health, our economy and our way of life,” said Horgan on Monday. “Our action plan focuses on services to protect people’s health and safety, gives immediate relief to people and businesses, and plans for B.C.’s economic recovery over the long term.”

The plan dedicates $2.8 billion to help people and fund the services they need to weather the crisis; $2.2 billion will provide relief to businesses and help them recover after the outbreak. It also provides $1.7 billion for the critical services needed in the province, including  investments in housing and shelter supports, income and disability assistance programs and crucial health services.

“While this crisis continues, we need to make sure that people are kept safe and that vital services are available to British Columbians,” said BC Finance Minister Carole James. “That means making sure people can pay their bills, stay safe in their homes and provide for their families during this extraordinary time.”

Of the $2.8 billion allocated to ensure people have the services and support they need during this difficult time, the B.C. government is dedicating $1.1 billion to boost the income of people affected by COVID-19.

In the longer-term, the recovery plan will dedicate funding to particularly hard-hit parts of the economy, such as the tourism, hospitality and culture sectors. The B.C. government is partnering with business and labour leaders to build an economic stimulus plan. The Province has allocated $1.5 billion for economic recovery.

A new BC Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a tax-free $1,000 payment to British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak. The benefit will be a one-time payment for British Columbians who receive federal Employment Insurance (EI), or the new federal Emergency Care Benefit or Emergency Support Benefit as a result of COVID-19 impacts.

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 workers can be EI-eligible and non-EI eligible, such as the self-employed. The benefit will be paid to BC residents, in addition to their federal income supports.

James said the province is hoping to “get the funding flowing for this by May.”

She also gave a glimpse of what the process will look like.

“It will be a straightforward application process,” she said. “Basically, if you have applied and are receiving EI – the expanded EI criteria – you will simply be able to apply, show that you’ve applied for EI and reached that criteria, and then we’ll be able to send the cheque out.”

The province said the plan also takes further steps to boost income supports by increasing and expanding the BC Climate Action Tax Credit in July 2020. 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.

To help people with B.C. student loans, the Province is freezing B.C. student loan payments for six months, starting March 30, 2020. Federal student loan payments are being frozen as well.

Effective immediately, businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt from the tax.

Business and light- and major-industry property classes will see their school tax cut in half. This will provide $500 million in immediate relief for business that own their property and allow commercial landlords to immediately pass savings on to their tenants in triple-net leases.

In addition to the employer health tax, the Province is extending tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax until Sept. 30, 2020. 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 be delayed and their timing will be reviewed by Sept. 30, 2020.