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.

BC Recovery Benefit

The BC Recovery Benefit  is a one-time direct deposit payment for eligible families, single parents, and individuals. Benefit eligibility is based on net income from your 2019 tax return. The amount you are eligible for will be automatically calculated based on your income when you apply.

You must apply to receive the benefit and applications open December 18, 2020.   

Families & Single Parents

Eligible families and single parents with a net income of up to $125,000 will receive $1,000. A reduced benefit amount is available for eligible families and single parents with a net income of up to $175,000.

The benefit defines a family as an individual and their spouse or common-law partner, unless they are separated. Both people must be residents of B.C.

The benefit defines a single parent as an individual who is the principal caregiver to at least one child.

If you are applying for the family benefit, your spouse or common-law partner must also meet the general eligibility criteria.

Individuals

Eligible individuals with a net income of up to $62,500 may be eligible for a benefit of $500, and eligible individuals with a net income of up to $87,500 will receive a reduced benefit amount.

Eligibility

General Eligibility Criteria

Generally, the benefit is available to people:

  • Residing in British Columbia on December 18, 2020
  • Who are at least 19 years old on December 18, 2020, or meet specific eligibility criteria
  • Who filed a 2019 Canadian personal income tax return, or meet specific eligibility criteria
  • Who have a valid social insurance number, individual tax number or temporary tax number

If you receive a payment and it is later determine that you are not eligible for the benefit, you will be required to repay it.

Specific Family & Single Parent Eligibility

  • If you are a B.C. resident but your spouse is not, you can only apply for the individual benefit.
  • If you are the principal caregiver of at least one child, you can apply for the single parent benefit. You are considered the principal caregiver if you have primary responsibility for the child most of the time.
  • If you are living apart from your spouse or common-law partner for a period of at least 90 days because of a breakdown in the relationship and you  have not reconciled, you are considered separated for the purpose of the benefit.
  • The effective day of your separated status is the day you started living apart.  Each person can apply for the individual benefit.
  • If you are separated and have shared custody of your child or children, each parent can apply for the individual benefit.
  • You may be able to apply for the single parent benefit if you are the principal caregiver to at least one child. You are considered the principal caregiver if you have primary responsibility for the child most of the time.
  • If you are under 19 and live with a spouse or common-law partner, you can apply for the family benefit.
  • If you are under 19 and are the principal caregiver to at least one child, you can apply for the single parent benefit. You are considered the principal caregiver if you have primary responsibility for the child most of the time.

If you are a shared-custody parent for the Canada Child Benefit or the GST/HST credit, you are not considered the principal caregiver for the child.

Specific Individual Eligibility

  • If you are on income or disability assistance you can apply for the recovery benefit.
  • If you have not filed your 2019 tax return or don’t have a bank account, a modified application will be available in the new year to help you apply for and receive the benefit.
  • If you or your spouse or common-law partner became bankrupt in 2019, the amount of the benefit you are eligible for is based on the total of your pre- and post-bankruptcy income.  When applying for the benefit, enter the total of the lines 23600 from the pre- and post-bankruptcy returns.
  • If you were confined to a prison or similar institution for a period of 90 days or longer that includes December 18, 2020, you are not eligible for the benefit.
  • A deceased individual’s estate can apply for the individual benefit if the individual was alive on December 18, 2020.
  • If you were married or in a common-law relationship on December 18, 2020 and your partner has since died, you can still apply for the family benefit instead of the individual benefit.

Income Tax Return

If you were required to file a 2019 Canadian personal income tax return, but have not done so yet, you must file a 2019 return before applying for the benefit.

If you were not required to file a 2019 Canadian personal income tax return because you earned less than $12,200 and met other criteria exempting you, you will still need to file a 2019 return before applying for the benefit.

If your spouse or common-law partner on December 18, 2020 was not required to file a 2019 Canadian personal income tax return you can still apply for the family benefit without their return if:

  • You have filed your 2019 Canadian personal income tax return and reported you were married to or in a common-law relationship with the same person, and
  • You claimed the spouse or common-law partner amount on line 30300 of your 2019 Canadian personal income tax return.

If you are not required to file a 2019 Canadian personal income tax return because you became resident in Canada for tax purposes during 2020, you can still apply for the benefit.

You will be required to include your income from all sources for 2019.

  • All amounts must be converted into Canadian dollars using the Bank of Canada exchange rate in effect when you received the income
  • The BC Government will require documentation to support your income

How to Apply

Online applications open December 18, 2020. Support will be available by phone starting December 21, 2020. Residents have until June 30, 2021 to apply for the benefit.

What You Need to Apply

1. Net income from your 2019 tax return

You must provide your net income from your 2019 tax return. This number can be found on Line 23600 of your 2019 income tax return.

If you haven’t already filed your 2019 tax return, you should do so as soon as possible.

There are multiple ways to file, including:

  • Free tax clinics for people with modest income and a simple tax situation. Find a tax clinic

2. Social insurance number

When you apply, you will need to provide your social insurance number, individual tax number, or temporary tax number to verify your eligibility.

3. Driver’s license number

If you have a B.C. driver’s licence, you must provide your driver’s licence number.

4. Direct deposit information

The benefit will only be issued by direct deposit. You must have an account with a Canadian financial institution to receive the benefit.

If you are on income or disability assistance and don’t have a bank account, a modified application will be available in the new year to help you apply for and receive the benefit.

Apply Here

Emergency Benefit for Workers

A new B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers provides a tax-free $1,000 payment to British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by COVID-19. The benefit is 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 meet the following requirements:

Either:

  • You lost your employment or self-employment income on or after March 15, 2020, and
  • You are eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for any payment period between March 15, 2020 and September 26, 2020, and
  • You have not repaid nor are you required to repay all of the CERB benefits

Or:

  • You lost your employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days that began between March 1, 2020, and March 14, 2020, and
  • During those 14 consecutive days, you did not earn:
  • more than $1,000 in combined employment or self-employment income
  • allowances, money or other benefits under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or for the care of your new-born or newly adopted child, and
  • You have earned employment or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to March 15, 2020

Example: If you were laid off on March 10, 2020, so that the first day you lost income was March 11, 2020, the 14 consecutive days referred to above would mean March 11 to 24, 2020.

In addition to either option above, you must also:

  • Have been a resident of British Columbia on March 15, 2020.
  • Meet the eligibility requirements for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
  • Be at least 15 years old on the date you apply.
  • Have filed, or agree to file, a 2019 B.C. income tax return before January 1, 2021.
  • Have not received provincial income assistance or disability assistance.
  • Have not been incarcerated in a provincial or federal correctional facility for a period of 90 days or longer that includes March 15, 2020.
  • Have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN), Individual Tax Number (ITN) or Temporary Tax Number (TTN)
  • Have not quit your job voluntarily

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.

How the Eligibility Requirements have Changed

The original B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers announced on May 1, 2020, followed the same federal eligibility requirements as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers is now expanded to include two weeks where the CERB wasn’t available.

If you're eligible for and receive at least one CERB payment and then return to work, you may still be eligible for the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, provided you’re not required to repay the CERB. You must still meet all other eligibility criteria in one of the two options above.

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. 

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. Applying online is safe, secure and only takes minutes. You have until December 2, 2020 to apply.

  • 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 the BC Government may ask you 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 was paid in July 2020 for moderate to low-income families:
  • An adult received up to $218.00 (increased from $43.50)
  • child received $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..

Utility and automobile insurance payment deferrals

BC Hydro

  • BC Hydro rates have been reduced by 1%, effective April 1, 2020.
  • 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

  • The Customer Recovery Fund was put in place to have Fortis bills deferred from April 1 to June 30, 2020.  Customers who took part in the program have been automatically enrolled in an interest-free repayment program, with payments spread over one year from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.
  • 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 froze B.C. student loan payments for six months. Federal student loan payments were 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.

Find current supports available to B.C. residents here.

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

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

Young people 12 to 24 years of age and their families can 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. 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.

See Notice 2020-002, Covid-19 Sales Tax Changes for the most recent information on the province’s tax updates. 

Delayed PST Budget 2020 Tax Changes

The scheduled increase to the carbon tax rate, and the application of PST to e-commerce transactions and sweetened carbonated drinks, are delayed until further notice.

Delayed Carbon Tax Increase

Carbon tax rates will remain at their current levels until March 31, 2021. The tax measure announced in Budget 2020 aligning the carbon tax rates with the federal carbon pricing backstop is postponed until April 1, 2021.

PST Rebate on Select Machinery and Equipment

The B.C. PST Rebate on Select Machinery and Equipment is a temporary provincial sales tax (PST) program to help corporations recover from the financial impacts of COVID-19.

The program acts like a refund but is separate from the existing PST Refund process. Under this temporary program, corporations can apply to receive an amount equal to the PST they paid between September 17, 2020 and September 30, 2021 on qualifying machinery and equipment.

Eligibility

All incorporated businesses except the following are eligible to apply:

  • Crown corporations (federal or provincial)
  • Local government corporations
  • Charities and non-profit corporations
  • Schools, school boards and universities, including business, trade and vocational schools
  • Hospitals
  • Regional health boards and community health councils designated under the Health Authorities Act
  • Agents of the government and of the other entities listed above, to the extent that the PST is paid in their capacity as an agent

Unincorporated entities, such as sole proprietors, cannot apply. However, they can choose to incorporate to take advantage of this program. Only machinery and equipment obtained after incorporation are eligible.

Qualifying Machinery and Equipment

For simplicity, Income Tax Act (Canada) capital cost allowance (CCA) class definitions already familiar to incorporated businesses will be used to establish which types of capital assets qualify for the rebate program.

To be eligible for the rebate, eligible property must be:

  • obtained substantially (more than 90%) for the purpose of gaining or producing income, and
  • not excluded (as set out in the technical backgrounder

Additionally, software and goods, other than goods obtained by lease, must be capital assets for the rebate to apply.

Detailed rules can be found in the Technical Backgrounder: B.C. PST Rebate on Select Machinery and Equipment.

How to Apply

You will be able to apply online starting April 1, 2021.

To prepare for the application process, be sure to keep all receipts and invoices with proof of the payment of PST on qualifying machinery and equipment. If your business is unincorporated, you may choose to incorporate to be eligible for the program.

Check this page for updates or subscribe to be notified of all B.C. Sales Tax updates.

Relief for commercial property owners and tenants 

School Tax

School tax rates for commercial properties (Classes 4, 5 and 6) will be reduced by 50% for the 2020 tax year.

On April 16, 2020, the school property tax was lowered again and classes 7 and 8 are now included. Overall, the commercial property tax bill for most businesses are reduced by 25% on average.

Rural Property Tax

Rural property tax due dates have not changed.

For rural area properties, late payment penalties for classes 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are postponed to November 3, 2020. Learn more about important property tax dates for rural area properties.

For municipal property tax due dates and penalty dates, please contact your municipality or review your tax notice.

Increased employment incentive

The  B.C. Increased Employment Incentive is a refundable tax credit for employers which encourages the creation of new jobs for B.C. workers or increases in payroll for existing low- or medium-income employees.

The tax credit is calculated at 15% of the amount that the employer’s qualifying B.C. remuneration exceeds the employer’s base B.C. remuneration.

Eligibility

All private sector B.C. employers, including most charities and non-profits, who increase their B.C. remuneration by creating new jobs or increasing the pay of their existing low- or medium-income employees over the last quarter (October to December) of 2020 are eligible.

Public institutions are not eligible for the tax credit, and include:

  • Municipalities
  • Schools, school boards, public universities and colleges
  • Hospitals
  • Health authorities
  • Certain other government entities

Charities and non-profit organizations that are not public institutions may be eligible for the B.C. Increased Employment Incentive.

Qualifying B.C. Remuneration

The qualifying B.C. remuneration is the total B.C. remuneration paid to eligible employees for the quarter ending December 31, 2020, with a maximum weekly B.C. remuneration for each eligible employee of $1,129.33. Partial weeks are prorated.

Base B.C. Remuneration

The base B.C. remuneration is the total B.C. remuneration paid to eligible employees for the quarter ending September 30, 2020, with a maximum weekly B.C. remuneration for each eligible employee of $1,129.33.  Partial weeks are prorated.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

If you qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy as well as the B.C. Increased Employment Incentive, you may receive assistance from both programs. Your tax credit will not be reduced if you also receive a subsidy from the federal program.

How to Apply

You will be able to apply online starting in March 2021.

More information about the application process will be added to this page as it becomes available.

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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