B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

The province’s much anticipated poverty reduction budget was presented as a multi-ministry effort at the BC 2019 budget presentation on Tuesday.

Since 2017, the province has increased assistance amounts by $100 a month – or $1,800 a year, an amount poverty reduction analysts say is lacking – based on an approximate $40,000 annual income poverty line for a family of four.

The 2019 budget promises to raise income assistance by an additional $50/month – an amount that caps monthly income assistance for a single person in B.C. at $760 – totalling $9,120 a year.

That’s still far too low, says Viveca Ellis, leadership development coordinator for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.

“The $50 increase is really a drop in the ocean in terms of combating deep poverty,” Ellis said. “We feel we have a large surplus at this time, we know that we can afford to raise income assistance much higher. I’m disappointed to see such a low increase at this time, especially considering our poverty reduction plan will be out shortly.”

The 2019 budget also includes a $15-million, three-year investment towards a new “homelessness action plan” which includes continuing efforts to improve housing options for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – including a further 200 modular housing units on top of the 2,000 the government has built since 2017.

The province says the plan will also include a province-wide homelessness count in 2020 and the establishment of a provincial homelessness coordination unit.

Another $10 million is allocated for a “provincial rent bank” – a fund providing loans for vulnerable families trying to avoid eviction.

“Through this measure, families will be provided protection from falling into homeless and deep poverty,” states B.C.’s three-year fiscal plan.

RELATED: Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

But the government’s approach to improving affordability comes through multi-faceted efforts – one of which is the complete elimination of provincial interest on student loans.

In 2017, interest was reduced to prime rate amounts, but the average B.C. student was still graduating with $28,000 in federal and provincial student debt.

But the new budget states that as of Tuesday, student loans will stop accumulating provincial interest, saving the average student $2,300 over a ten-year repayment period.

“We know student debt really delays students from making major life choices like buying a home or starting a family…so this will help,” said Aran Armutlu, chairperson for the BC Federation of Students. “Students right now, when they come from low or middle income families, are forced to borrow [money] in order to access education.”

“There are other things that can make life more affordable for students like the introduction of an upfront needs-based grant program…and funding for our institutions coupled with the freezing of tuition fees. Those are things that would really increase access to education.”

Additional affordability efforts include more funding for extended family caregivers too – bringing supportive payments in line with that of foster parents – who will see a $179.09/month increase starting in April.

While no adjustments are being made to child care investments, with the government continuing to tout it’s 2018 investments in the affordable child care benefit and child care reduction fee initiative – a new BC Child Opportunity Benefit is intended to make raising children more affordable for British Columbians.

The benefit will provide families with children under 18 with up to $1,600 a year for the first child, $2,600 per year for families with two children and up to $3,400 per year for families with three.

A full poverty reduction strategy is expected to be presented in the next two weeks.

RELATED: B.C. Budget: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

RELATED: B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

RANCH MUSINGS: As we prepare for planting

This year we say how much garden can we handle with just ourselves and some family help

Track and field athletes reveal community spirit

Sheppard pointed to acts of genuine kindness during the two-day event as his highlights

Race For Kids on for teams of two Saturday, June 1

Registration is open for the fifth annual Race For Kids Fundraiser

PHOTOS: Legion hosts May’s biannual fashion show

Held in the Spring and the Fall every year, this show is a night of fashion and bonding

Bike to work and school week, May 27 to June 2

With vehicle emissions responsible for 30 per cent of pollutants in Williams Lake’s air quality, the week offers residents the opportunity to make a difference

VIDEO: Protesters in Penticton gather to rally against sleeping-on-sidewalk bylaw

The proposed bylaw would outlaw sitting or lying on the city’s downtown sidewalks

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Most Read