The B.C. government has introduced a $5-billion aid package to support British Columbians and businesses that are suffering because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
The plan includes $2.8 billion in support for individuals and services, and $2.2 billion for businesses.
“This is stressful. People need help now. Businesses need help now,” Horgan told a news conference in Victoria 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 response fund includes $1.1 billion to support incomes for workers and families, including a one-time $1,000 tax-free benefit for people unable to work due to the crisis.
This includes workers who have been laid off, workers who are sick or quarantined, parents with sick children, parents who stay home because childcare centres and schools are closed, and people who stay home to care for sick family members.
The benefit will be paid to eligible B.C. residents, on top of the recently announced federal income supports, and is expected to be available by May.
“We know there are people that cannot work that need support now,” Finance Minister Carole James said.
“While this crisis continues, we need to make sure that people are kept safe and that vital services are available to British Columbians. That means making sure people can pay their bills, stay safe in their homes, and provide for their families during this extraordinary time.”
Businesses with a payroll of more than $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020.
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, 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.
Horgan and James also announced funds to help B.C. once the crisis ends.
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“To let people know we are serious, we have set $1.5 billion to plan for the province’s recovery,” said James. “It will further develop B.C.’s competitiveness.”
The province’s action plan provides $1.7 billion for critical services, such as housing and shelter supports, income and disability assistance, 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.
The province will continue to fund non-profits even if they are closed or their regular operations have been disrupted.
Licensed childcare providers staying open will receive enhanced funding. These centres are eligible to receive seven times their average monthly operating funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 75 per cent of a group facility’s average monthly operating expenses.
The province is also increasing and expanding the B.C. Climate Action Tax Credit in July 2020.
As many as 86 per cent of British Columbians will see some extra money from this enhancement.
Eligible families of four will receive up to $564 and eligible individuals will receive up to $218. 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.
Horgan reiterated a pledge to ensure renters are not evicted during the crisis, but provided few details.
“We will have a plan for renters on Wednesday. We do understand that we are mid-month and coming into April, and we want to make sure that people will not lose homes because of the pandemic,” Horgan said.
“We need to make sure we are laying out something that makes sense for renters and landlords.”