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Politics

B.C. budget 2019 highlights: 10 things to know

WATCH: The NDP government has tabled a stay-the-course budget for 2019, with little new spending, but a surplus and more debt. Richard Zussman has the highlights.

The B.C. government has introduced a second straight balanced budget. Unlike last year, there are no new taxes and no record-breaking new investments in child care and housing.

Here are the top 10 things to know from the 2019 B.C. budget.

Provincial gaming revenues for First Nations

Starting April 2019, the province will be funneling approximately $3 billion over 25 years to B.C. First Nations from gaming revenues.

WATCH: Keith Baldrey with more on 2019 B.C. budget

Keith Baldrey with more on 2019 B.C. budget
Keith Baldrey with more on 2019 B.C. budget

A new B.C. First Nations limited partnership will manage the funding and be overseen by a First Nation-appointed board of directors. The First Nations communities are expected to be used for social services, education and infrastructure.

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A province-wide rent bank

The provincial government has introduced a loan program for British Columbians who fall on hard financial times and can’t afford rent for a few months. The program currently exists in Vancouver and some jurisdictions in Ontario.

“Not everyone has trouble affording their rent all the time. So they might have trouble affording rent for a month or two and then find their footing,” said B.C. non-profit housing association spokesperson Jill Atkey.

READ MORE: B.C. budget 2019: Government’s stand-pat, balanced budget includes moderate child care, housing boosts

Interest-free student loans

The government has fulfilled its major commitments by getting rid of interest on student loans. As of Feb. 19, 2019, all B.C. student loans will stop accumulating interest.

The estimate is that someone with a $28,000 student loan debt in combined provincial and federal loans will save $2,300 over a 10-year repayment period.

WATCH: Coverage of the 2019 provincial budget on Globalnews.ca

Respite services for parents of children with disabilities

It’s not a huge number, but the province is hoping the $6 million a year in respite services for parents of children with disabilities can go a long way for those families. The goal is to reduce the wait-list for respite services. The funding increase works out to a bump of up to $280 a year.

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Increasing disability rates

After years of rate freezes under the B.C. Liberals, the province has increased the disability allowance for the second straight year. Income and disability rates are going up an additional $50 per month.

“I appreciate they acknowledged the depth of poverty for adults with intellectual disabilities with the $50 a month increase. But I didn’t see much today beyond that,” said Inclusion B.C.’s Karla Verschoor.

LISTEN: Breaking down the 2019 budget with Richard Zussman

Wildfire budgeting

The provincial government is not changing the way wildfires are budgeted for, but there will be an increase in how much is being allotted. The province is putting in $101 million to fight fires.

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Finance Minister Carole James said the total bill for last year was close to a billion dollars for firefighting and prevention. The budget also includes an additional $111 million over three years to bolster fire prevention.

READ MORE: What to expect from the 2019 British Columbia provincial budget

New teachers

The provincial government is still facing a shortage of teachers after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the government must return class size and composition to 2002 levels. With negotiations set to begin with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, the province is investing $58 million for the Classroom Enhancement Fund and the government says that means 4,000 new teachers.

Community Living BC Funding

There have been growing concerns that Community Living BC home-share providers have been shortchanged. The province announced in the budget $45 million over three years for those who care for and house adults with developmental disabilities.

WATCH: Coverage of the 2019 provincial budget on Globalnews.ca

Funding for foster parents, adoptive parents and relatives caring for children

Foster parents, adoptive parents and relatives caring for children in care are about to get an increase of $179 per month. The payments haven’t been increased in a decade. Part of the commitment is that foster parents will get the same amount as relatives caring for children.

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