The B.C. government has announced a $5 billion aid package for individuals and businesses affected by the economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions, Premier John Horgan says.
Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James announced their package March 23, saying $2.8 billion will go to people, and $2.2 billion will go to small businesses, with payments flowing even as the details of the programs are worked out.
It includes aid for renters so no one will be evicted due to the coronavirus measures that have shut down much of the economy, Horgan said. It also includes $1.7 billion for additional health care to deal with the illnesses as a result of the virus.
James said the B.C. benefit will include a one-time $1,000 tax-free benefit to people who are unable to work, including those who are eligible for Employment Insurance and other federal aid. Application will be simple, with everyone who qualifies for expanded EI payments also eligible for the B.C. payments, which are targeted to begin in May.
“We know that there are people now who are unable to work and pay their rent and bills,” James said.
Horgan said renter evictions that were already in progress will continue, but “no one will lose their apartment because of COVID-19.” B.C. Housing has suspended evictions from its provincially subsidized housing.
The Insurance Corp. of B.C. is allowing for monthly vehicle insurance payments to be deferred up to 90 days, and B.C. Hydro is making available payment deferrals and access to its emergency fund that pays eligible customers up to $600 to keep their power on.
A range of provincial tax payments are being delayed until Sept. 30 for businesses who collect them, including sales tax, fuel and tobacco tax revenue. B.C.’s next carbon tax increase, set for April 1, is also delayed until next September.
James said $500 million has also been earmarked to cover urban commercial property taxes to help businesses recover and get through the year as their business recovers. The finance ministry has allotted $1.5 billion to help businesses recover once the pandemic subsides.