In a press conference on March 23, 2020, Premier John Horgan and Deputy Premier and Minster of Finance Carole James announced a new action plan for the economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The action plan is a $5-billion aid package designed to fill gaps or top up areas where federal assistance is not enough. The aid package is meant to support a wide range of British Columbians from healthcare workers, laid off employees, students, and renters, to small businesses.
Premier Horgan announced that an extraordinary session of the Legislative Assembly will be held to pass new employment standards legislation to make sure “No worker loses their job because they are self-isolating or caring for a sick one in the family.” We will provide an update as soon as details of the legislation have been made known.
Finance Minister James announced a new BC Emergency Benefit for British Columbians that will be in place (able to apply for) by May 2020. This benefit is a one-time, tax-free $1,000 payment for workers whose ability to work has been affected by the COVID-19 virus. This benefit is additional to federal supports such as EI, the Federal Emergency Care Benefit, and the Federal Emergency Support Benefit. Finance Minister James said this BC Emergency Benefit will support:
“EI-eligible workers as well as those who may not qualify for EI. Including non-EI eligible workers who become laid off, non-EI eligible workers who are sick or quarantined, including those who are self-employed, non-EI eligible workers who are taking care of a family member who is sick, such as an elderly parent, and also parents whose children require care or supervision because of childcare or school closures and are unable to earn Employment Insurance whether they qualify for Employment Insurance or not.”
Finance Minister James, in the Q&A portion of the press conference, said that the $1,000 amount was based on what the government “could get out right now” in terms of immediate support and reiterated this is a first step.
More information and details of the other benefits in the BC COVID-19 Action Plan can be found here.