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March 25, 2020
Canada: British Columbia announces relief plan
On 23 March 2020, the British Columbia (BC) Government announced a CA$5 billion1 relief plan for BC residents and businesses affected by the current situation. This plan includes $2.8 billion in support for individuals to weather the crisis and $2.2 billion in relief for businesses and economic recovery. Premier John Horgan said, “Our action plan focuses on services to protect people’s health and safety, gives immediate relief to people and businesses, and plans for BC’s economic recovery over the long term.” Finance Minister Carole James said this action plan is the first step to support people and businesses.
This Alert summarizes the key support measures.
Help for BC individuals
Emergency Benefit for Workers
Of the $2.8 billion allocated to individuals, $1.1 billion will be used to support income for workers and families. This includes a one-time $1,000 tax-free “Emergency Benefit for Workers” payment to British Columbians whose employment has been negatively affected due to the crisis. Workers who are eligible for federal Employment Insurance or either the new federal Emergency Care Benefit or Emergency Support Benefit are also eligible for this program. The application process will open in April 2020, with payment expected in May 2020.
Student loans repayment extension
All BC student loan payments will automatically be paused for six months from 30 March 2020 until 30 September 2020 with no interest.
Help with insurance and utility bills
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia announced that customers on a monthly automatic payment plan can defer their payment up to 90 days with no penalty.
On 13 March 2020, BC Hydro announced an assistance program that provides customers with the option to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty. This initiative is in addition to their existing Customer Crisis Fund Grant program, which provides support of up to $600 to individuals experiencing financial hardship.
On 18 March 2020, BC Housing placed a temporary moratorium on evictions and rent adjustments for tenants in subsidized and affordable housing.
Medical Services Plan (MSP)
Under BC’s public health insurance, the MSP coverage wait period will be waived for those returning from impacted areas who intend to stay in BC. BC is also waiving the wait period for those who return to BC to maintain coverage if is found that they were outside of the province for longer than the allowable time period. Temporary MSP coverage may also be granted for some individuals, such as those who are out of province and unable to return or those with an expired work or study permit.
Licensed day care providers
On 20 March 2020, the BC Government announced emergency funding to help support licensed child care providers that wish to stay open in order to support families and front-line workers as well as those that are closed due to the current situation. Those centers that are closed will receive support to help cover fixed costs.
Extended tax deadlines and other measures
1. Currency references in this Alert are to the CA$.
For additional information with respect to this Alert, please contact the following:
Ernst & Young LLP (Canada), Vancouver