British Columbia COVID-19 Action Plan

British Columbia's COVID-19 Action Plan

3/23/2020
British Columbia COVID-19 Action Plan

British Columbia

On March 23, 2020, the B.C. Government announced a $5 billion COVID-19 Action Plan investing in the Province’s people and businesses.

The following summary of the B.C. Government’s COVID-19 Action Plan for British Columbians has been created from the following B.C. Government resources:

B.C. takes steps to support people, businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 Action Plan - Provincial Tax Changes

Support for Individuals

The B.C. Government is dedicating $1.1 billion in financial support to British Columbians.

Emergency Benefit for Workers

A new B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a tax-free $1,000 payment to British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by COVID-19. The benefit will be available for workers who have been laid-off, who are sick or quarantined, parents with sick children, parents who stay at home from work while child care centres and schools are closed, and those caring for sick family members, such as an elderly parent. B.C. residents who receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit are eligible, as well as those who have exhausted their Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.  

The workers can be EI-eligible and non-EI eligible, such as the self-employed. The benefit will be paid to B.C. residents, in addition to their federal income supports. Additionally, the one-week waiting period and medical certificate requirements for Employment Insurance have been removed.

In order to receive the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, you will need to state that you have or will be filing a 2019 B.C. income tax return.

Eligibility 

To be eligible for the emergency benefit, you must:

  • Have been a resident of British Columbia on March 15, 2020.
  • Meet the eligibility requirements for the CERB.
  • Have been approved for the CERB, even if you haven’t received a federal benefit payment yet.
  • Be at least 15 years old on the date you apply.
  • Have filed, or agree to file, a 2019 B.C. income tax return.
  • Not be receiving provincial income assistance or disability assistance.

If you receive a payment and are later determine that you are not eligible for it, you may be required to repay it with penalties and interest.

What You Need to Apply

1. Social Insurance Number

When you apply, you'll need your Social Insurance Number (SIN), Individual Tax Number (ITN), or Temporary Tax Number (TTN) to verify your eligibility.

2. Direct Deposit Information

The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers will only be issued by direct deposit, ensuring you receive the benefit as soon as possible.

Obtain your direct deposit information before the application period begins. 

If you don't use cheques, contact your financial institution to get the numbers. It's important to enter your bank account information correctly.

The $1,000 payment will be made by direct deposit to your personal bank account within 10 business days.

3. An Approved Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

If you haven’t applied for the CERB yet, you must apply for it now as this is one of the eligibility requirements for the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers.

How to Apply

1. Online Applications

You can apply online starting May 1, 2020. Applying online is safe, secure and only takes minutes.

  • You can apply anytime, from anywhere, using any device, including your smart phone.
  • Applying online is the fastest way to get your benefit.
  • Your personal information is protected and secure when you apply.

Documentation isn't required when you apply. However, all applications will be verified and you may be asked for proof of your eligibility at a later date.

2. Telephone Applications

You can apply by telephone with the help of an agent starting May 4, 2020. This option is for people who don’t have internet access.

High call volumes are anticipated and it’s strongly recommended to apply online if you can.

Climate Action Tax Credit

 A one-time enhancement to the climate action tax credit will be paid in July 2020 for moderate to low-income families:

  • An adult will receive up to $218.00 (increased from $43.50)
  • A child will receive $64.00 (increased from $12.75)

In order to receive the climate action tax credit you will need to file income taxes in B.C. to be eligible.

Utility and automobile insurance payment deferrals

BC Hydro

  • BC Hydro rates have been reduced by 1%, effective April 1, 2020.
  • BC Hydro residential customers who have lost their job or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 will receive a bill credit of three times their average monthly bill.
  • This credit does not have to be paid back.
  • Small businesses in BC Hydro’s small general service rate category forced to close due to COVID-19 can have their power bills forgiven for electricity used between April and June 2020, with no repayment required.
  • Customers experiencing job loss, illness, or lost wages due to COVID-19 can access grants up to $600 to pay their hydro bills through the Customer Crisis Fund.

ICBC

FortisBC

  • A repayment schedule, free of interest or additional fees, will be set up and payments can be spread over a full year
  • For small businesses that have been forced to close, FortisBC will issue bill credits to offset any charges to their account while they have been unable to continue operating their business as usual.
  • Businesses that are still open, but facing a slowdown in revenue, will not receive bill credits but can also receive bill deferral for the same 90-day period
Freezing B.C. student loans
Starting March 30, 2020, the Province is freezing B.C. student loan payments for six months. Federal student loan payments are being frozen as well.
Housing support

In response to the pandemic and resulting financial stress, B.C. has increased funding for housing supports and is working to ensure people can maintain their housing in the event of job or income loss.
The list of measures introduced to keep British Columbians housed include:

  • Annual rent increases are frozen
  • A temporary rent supplement is available, which will be paid directly to landlords
  • Eligible households with dependents can receive up to $500 per month
  • Eligible households without dependents can receive up to $300 per month

Applications for the supplement are open on the BC Housing website

  • Preventing landlords from accessing rental units without the consent of the tenant (for example, for showings or routine maintenance), except in exceptional cases where access is needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the unit.
  • Restricting methods that renters and landlords can use to serve notices to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 (no personal service and allowing email).
  • Allowing landlords to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.

To further support renters and landlords, the Residential Tenancy Branch will implement several additional actions, including adjourning and rescheduling hearings in situations where people need additional time to prepare and extending timelines for filing applications for dispute resolution.

The Province also provided $10 million to Vancity to administer funding and ensure the sustainability of the existing rent bank network.  And Canada’s six largest banks have worked together to freeze mortgage payments for six months for those in need.

Support for Income & Disability Assistance

Due to COVID-19, new emergency measures are in place to ensure that people on income or disability assistance and low-income seniors, do not encounter additional barriers.

Income & Disability Assistance

If you are not receiving federal Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and are on:

  • Income Assistance
  • Disability Assistance
  • Comforts Allowance
  • BC Senior's Supplement

 You will automatically receive a $300 supplement on your cheques issued in April, May, and June. No action is required on your part.

If you are receiving federal EI or the CERB and receiving:

  • Income Assistance
  • Disability Assistance

You will not be eligible for the $300 supplement.

CERB and EI are temporarily exempt, meaning they will have no effect on your regular Income Assistance or Disability Assistance.

BC Bus Pass Program

If you are on Disability Assistance and receiving the BC Bus Pass:

  • There is a current province-wide suspension of BC Transit and Translink bus fares.
  • You will automatically receive the $52 Transportation Supplement on your cheque starting in April.
  • This will continue for as long as BC Transit and Translink are suspending fares.
  • No action is required on your part. Your bus pass will not be cancelled and will remain active for use on Sky Train and Sea Bus services. You will not need to re-apply once fares are re-instated.
  • For people already receiving the Transportation Supplement of $52, there is no change, and no action is required on your part.

Receiving payments

Direct Deposit is a safe and dependable way to receive payments. Money is deposited directly to your Bank or Credit Union account. You have immediate access to your money.

Sign up for Direct Deposit.

Accessing Service

If you have documents to submit, you can mail them or place them in the drop box at any office or phone 1-866-866-0800 to discuss options.

To avoid coming into an office, access services by phone or via My Self Serve.

Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) is also available:

  • Vancouver: 604-775-0303
  • Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-661-8773
Mental Health Services

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Everyone

BounceBack

BounceBack™ provides free access to online, video, and phone-based coaching and skills-building program. Seniors, adults and youth who are experiencing low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress, or worry, can receive care.

  • Register for programs and connect with a coach at BounceBack
Virtual Counselling Services

Virtual community counselling for individuals or groups at low or no cost.

Living Life to the Full

Free access to Living Life to the Full peer support and practical skills courses for coping with stress, problem solving, and boosting mood. The eight-week course is led by a trained facilitator.

BC COVID-19 Mental Health Self-Assessment Tool

Available April 20, 2020, a set of mental health screening self-tests alongside the COVID-19 self-assessment tool.

COVID-19 Psychological Support Service

Free psychological first aid is available to all B.C. residents (19+) who are experiencing stress, anxiety, or uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the phone.

  • Call 1-604-827-0847

Virtual Support for Frontline Healthcare Workers

Mobile Response Team (MRT)

In addition to supporting workers on the frontlines of the Overdose Public Health Emergency, the MRT will also support the mental well-being and psychological safety of frontline health care workers who are experiencing exponential distress and mental health concerns in response to COVID-19. To access, call, or email the Provincial Health Services Authority.

This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • Call: 1-888-686-3022 
  • Email: MRT@phsa.ca

Free Online Mental Health First Aid

New online supports for frontline health care workers and the public to help them cope with any psychological effects they may be experiencing.

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Online Resource Hub

Available April 20, 2020, an expanded resources hub will include information to improve psychological and social supports. It provides strategies to help frontline workers take care of their mental health and well-being.

Virtual Peer Support Service

Available May 2020, a phone and text-based peer support service, staffed by former long-term care and home support workers. It provides confidential emotional support to current workers. Peers can also help guide callers to other services and supports if needed.

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Youth

Foundry Virtual Clinic

Nine existing virtual Foundry centres are now accepting virtual walk-in counselling.

  • Visit Foundry to find a centre in your community

As of April 20, 2020, young people 12 to 24 years of age and their families will be able to access youth-focused virtual clinics offering counselling, peer support, primary care and family support through voice calls, video and chat.

Y Mind

Young people 13 to 30 years of age can sign up for six to seven week long programs online for free, starting early May 2020. The YMCA of British Columbia’s Y Mind program helps young people cope with stress, worry and anxiety.

Child and Youth Teams

Intake services and mental health counselling from the Ministry of Children and Family Development for children and youth across B.C. Virtual care by phone and online is available.

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Students

Here2Talk

All registered post-secondary students can get confidential, free counselling, and referral services through Here2Talk by app, phone, or online chat. Here2Talk is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Visit Here2Talk or download the app to start a chat session with a trained counsellor
  • Speak to a counsellor on the phone at 1-877-857-3397. Use 1-604-642-5212 if you are a student calling from outside of Canada (international calling charges may apply)

WE Well-being

Free online resource for students, parents, and educators to support social and emotional well-being as they navigate the new world of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Parents

EASE (Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators) at Home

EASE at Home offers helpful tips for parents, like how to teach children calming breathing techniques or use structured games like scavenger hunts to build routine in a way that’s fun.

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Seniors

bc211

The Province has expanded funding for bc211, a province-wide information and referral service. It matches volunteers to seniors whose support network has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The service takes calls from people who would like to volunteer to help seniors in their community with basic needs, including grocery shopping and pharmacy drop-offs and check-ins.

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Victims of Family or Sexual Violence

VictimLink BC

Immediate 24/7 crisis support for victims of family or sexual violence is available by phone through VictimLink BC’s 24/7 telephone service. This service also provides information and referrals for all victims of crime.

  • Call 1-800-563-0808 or email VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca to get help

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Indigenous Peoples

Mental Health and Cultural Supports

Many phone and online counselling, support programs, and treatment and healing centres are available virtually for Indigenous people across B.C.

Support for Businesses

Tax support for businesses

Effective immediately, many provincial tax filing and payment deadlines are deferred to September, 30 2020.

Employer Health Tax

Businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until September 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt.

Sales Tax Payments for provincial sales tax (PST), (including municipal and regional district tax), carbon tax, motor fuel tax, and tobacco tax are also deferred.

See Notice 2020-002, Covid-19 Sales Tax Changes for more information

Delayed PST Budget 2020 Tax Changes

The following tax changes announced in Budget 2020 will be postponed until further notice:

  • Eliminating the PST exemption for carbonated beverages that contain sugar, natural sweeteners, or artificial sweeteners.
  • Expanded registration requirements for Canadian sellers of goods, along with Canadian and foreign sellers of software and telecommunication services.

Delayed Carbon Tax Increase

Carbon tax rates will remain at their current levels until further notice. The tax measure announced in Budget 2020 aligning the carbon tax rates with the federal carbon pricing backstop is also postponed until further notice.

Relief for commercial property owners and tenants 
School tax rates for commercial properties (Classes 4, 5 and 6) will be reduced by 50% for the 2020 tax year.
Investing in a longer-term economic plan
$1.5 billion in provincial funding will support economic stimulus once the pandemic has passed.  The Province is also working in partnership with the business and labour sectors to develop the long-term plan for economic recovery.

Critical services

The Province is providing an additional $1.7 billion in funding to critical services:

  • This should help to address health-care pressures from the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Additional support for social services and vulnerable populations.
  • Additional support for housing and shelter programs.
  • Funding for the First Nations Health Authority.
  • Non-profits and other agencies will continue to receive support, even if regular operations have been disrupted.
  • Support for licensed child care providers that are staying open.

Arts & Culture

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the BC Arts Council recognize the immense and unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having, and will likely continue to have, on the B.C. arts and culture sector, including impacts on our funded projects and organizations.

To help address these impacts, they’ve made significant updates to their policies and programs and have created an FAQ for grant recipients and applicants.

In making these changes, they have been guided by four key objectives, to:

  • support the sustainability of arts and culture organizations;
  • provide access to funding as quickly as possible;
  • ensure that projects funded to date and to be funded are not penalized by the unprecedented situation; and
  • support the continuation of projects and activities.

The most up-to-date information will always be posted on the FAQ page and also be available on individual program web pages. Updates will also be announced on the BC Arts Council Facebook, and Twitter accounts.

Access COVID-19 FAQs for Arts and Culture Grant Recipients & Applicants

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