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Budget 2019: The good, the bad and the ugly

The 2019 B.C. Budget was delivered yesterday and we were there looking for the investments in B.C.’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy. In a nutshell, the new BC Child Opportunity Benefit will significantly impact families in poverty in British Columbia but there needs to be far more for individuals in poverty in this budget. 

This is a family budget building on last year’s significant and continued investments in child care, and we’re pleased to see B.C. finally get in line with other provinces in providing a child benefit that extends up to age 18. There are also many other supports for families, youth and children outlined below.

However, the increase to welfare and disability rates of only $50 per month and the addition of only 200 modular houses in this budget is a drop in the ocean in tackling deep poverty for individuals. This is a critical gap given that one in three singles live in poverty in B.C. Given the level of surplus in the budget, as well as forecast allowance and contingency funds, there’s really no reason to keep rates so shockingly low!

We look forward to seeing more significant measures and the long-term vision in the full poverty reduction strategy to be released shortly. Below is a summary of our Members’ analysis.

BCPRC Press Release: BC Budget: Making Life Better for Families in BC to Prevent Poverty

Welfare and Disability Assistance

With the increase of $50 per month per person, the basic income assistance rate will now be only $760 per month, which is meant to cover housing, food, transportation and other basic needs. This remains below 50% of the poverty line, which reflects the actual cost of living. The disability rate will increase to $1183 plus the existing transportation allowance of $52 per month. 

However, along with many of our members, we have been advocating for a shift to a more supportive social assistance system so we welcome significant steps, including:

  • changing the definition of spouse in line with other programs to ensure fairness in the level of support for couples;
  • helping clients access identification;
  • increasing the assets threshold;
  • allowing people to keep their car;
  • extending the shelter rate to those paying room and board to a family member;
  • and simplifying the re-application process to decrease the risk in people taking up short-term employment opportunities.

Raise the Rates: Pulling Teeth: Budget 2019 a big disappointment

CCPA: Budget 2019: Positive investments, but room for more

BCGEU: B.C. BUDGET ANALYSIS 2019/20: A prudent plan to strengthen the economy while investing in environmental sustainability and critical public services

Housing

New investments include a small expansion of the Province’s successful modular housing program to fund 200 additional units beyond the 2000, plus an additional 2,500, announced last year as well as $15 million to develop a province-wide homeless response strategy over the next three years. 

Other measures include accelerating $38 million in grants to housing providers in the 2018/19 fiscal year that ends on March 31 as well as $10 million to establish a provincial rent bank (which is welcome, but ultimately a band-aid solution in the context of a major housing crisis).

While the investment in new housing was at a record level in last year’s BC Budget, the crisis is so severe that more action is still needed. Budget 2019 adds to this multi-year investment plan, though only modestly. Additional investments are needed to meet the government’s target of 114,000 new housing units over 10 years. As of last year’s budget, the government outlined specific commitments to create 34,000 new homes over 10 years and Budget 2019 does not yet begin to substantially bridge the gap to achieve the 114,000 unit target. The target itself should also be increased, particularly as it is designed to include market housing. We need 10,000 units per year of social and cooperative housing in Metro Vancouver alone.”

CCPA: Nine things to know about BC Budget 2019

BCNPHA: Housing Advocates Welcome Continued Investments in Affordable Housing in 2019 BC Budget

Child care

Budget 2019 built on what was announced in Budget 2018 extending funding for the plan into the 2021-22 fiscal year and including $9 million more next year than expected to deal with high demand for existing programs.

“We are already seeing results as we build towards the $10aDay Plan, a quality, universal child care system:

  • Families of more than 52,000 children are benefiting from lower fees, with many more low income families paying low or no fees.
  • 2,500 children are in $10/day prototype sites.
  • Early Childhood Educators see their first publicly-funded wage increase in almost 20 years, along with increased bursaries and education supports.
  • New licensed programs are being created, existing facilities being upgraded, unlicensed spaces becoming licensed, young parent programs and children with additional needs are benefiting from increased funding.
  • Importantly, the BC government has confirmed its commitment to Indigenous-led child care on and off reserve.”

Developing a universal child care system requires continued investment, so we encourage government to ensure accountability by directing investments into:

  • Increasing wages for Early Childhood Educators, to a living wage to address the recruitment and retention crisis.
  • Creating more new child care programs with public partners and non-profits, as parents across BC are still desperate for access to quality licensed care.
  • Lowering parent fees, with more $10/day prototype sites & universal fee reductions”

Please join the $10aDay Child Care Campaign in saying Thank You!

Health

Budget 2019 highlighted the investment to reduce Pharmacare deductibles for low-income people and to increase access to medications including treatment for hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and eye infections as well as the full elimination of MSP fees which will take effect by January 1, 2020. 

“The government’s reinvestment in better care for seniors, faster access to surgeries and building and renovating hospitals continues to be a priority in the 2019 provincial budget. Health care programs will see a lift of $1.3 billion over three years, which will include support for a multi-year plan to boost staffing levels in nursing homes to the minimum guidelines. The budget also continues support for the second year of a $548 million investment in seniors’ care including more staff for long-term care, home support and other services. The capital plan anticipates a number of hospital renovations announced over the last year that will enhance and improve services in communities across B.C. And significantly, health authorities won’t be forced to use inflexible and expensive public-private partnership (P3) schemes, which have resulted in long-term liabilities amount to almost $1 billion in health care alone.

The Budget also re-iterated the government’s support for team-based primary care. Community Health Centres are an interdisciplinary, team-based model that is well proven in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Oregon. The government’s primary care strategy, announced in May 2018, included CHCs as part of its primary care reforms.” More funding is still needed to roll out this vision with an annualized global funding model. We also encourage the government to work towards universal dental and vision care.

BC Health Coalition: Budget 2019 continues crucial investment in health care services

Hospital Employees Union: Health care renewal on course with Budget 2019, says 50,000-member Hospital Employees’ Union

Health Sciences Association of BC: BC Budget Invests in Health and Social Services, but Workforce Challenges Need Attention 

Education

Another significant move is the elimination of interest on student loans effective immediately. This provides huge relief to students graduating from post-secondary education with significant debt. 

“Students are very happy that the government has listened to our call, and has taken this important step towards mitigating student debt,” said Aran Armutlu, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS).“ This announcement will not only help current and future students, but also those who have completed their studies and are struggling to make loan payments.” Funding also increased for tuition-free ABE and ELL, benefiting an estimated 19,000 students and post-secondary spaces opened across BC, including 2900 tech seats and 620 early childhood educator seats.

Please consider sending Minister Carole James and Minister Melanie Mark a quick email to thank them for making the right decision.

The government provided record levels of capital spending to build new schools and complete seismic upgrades. However, it’s important that these new schools are built right. Join the Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education in calling for a review of the Area Standards policy to ensure that we #BuildSchoolsRight.

In addition, $550 million is dedicated to increase operational funding over three years but this funding falls short of what is needed to address the teacher shortage and the need for improvements to class size and composition.

BC Federation of Students: Budget 2019 Eliminates Interest on BC Student Loans

Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC: Budget 2019 – what does it mean for post-secondary?

BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils: Budget 2019 Focuses on Student Well-being and Safety

BC Teachers’ Federation: Budget 2019 keeps education funding moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done for teacher recruitment and retention

Low Wage Work and Employment Standards

“Budget 2019 also strengthened protections for vulnerable workers with an increase in Employment Standards funding of $14 million over three years to facilitate the removal of the self-help kit, double staff to conduct investigations and create a registry as introduced in the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act. 

We know that the most pressing need for change is in how the Employment Standards Act is enforced. Enforcement should be proactive, rather than driven by workers’ complaints as it is now. We hope that with a significant increase in Branch enforcement staff they can proactively enforce workplace rights, which for many vulnerable workers currently only exist on paper. We also urge the government to act in this legislative session to protect children and youth from work-related exploitation and injury by reforming child employment standards and ensuring adequate enforcement.”

BC Federation of Labour: Budget 2019 strengthens employment standards and highlights path for good, green jobs

Living Wage for Families Campaign: BC Budget 2019: Improvements for BC Families

BC Employment Standards Coalition: Employment Standards Budget 2019 Falls Short!

Equity

This is an overview of some of the investments that target those most marginalized in poverty. Having called for this measure along with our members, in particular First Call, we celebrate the expansion of the provincial child benefit, with the increase of provision from 6 years old to 18 years old. This will reduce child poverty and is a good preventative initiative.

The new benefit will provide an increase of the maximum lifetime benefit for a family with two children from $7,920 to $48,000. The benefit targets deep poverty with the threshold for the maximum benefit set at $25,000. However, this is far below the poverty line of $40,000 for a family of four.

There are many other measures aimed at families, children and youth, including:

On legal aid: “While the budget announces the piloting of eight legal clinics across the province, the dollars tentatively attached to this promise fall far short of what would be required to create the kind of clinical legal clinic structure that is so desperately needed. Moreover, there is no increase in investment in the civil legal aid system to reduce barriers to eligibility and increase services. The failure to properly fund family legal aid is particularly devastating for women leaving violent relationships.”

On transit: “HandyDART service in all jurisdictions is suffering, and HandyDART riders with it. As in 2018, there is no line item for this in the 2019 budget. BC Transit is getting an additional $21M in funding, so we will see some further increase in service. It is not enough and we will continue to advocate for more HandyDART vehicle hours.” There is also no money for the measures outlined by the #AllOnBoard campaign: free transit for children and youth and a sliding-scale low-income transit pass.

On Community Living BC: There was a very modest annual increase of 66 million to the Community Living BC budget. “It remains unclear how this budget will actually translate directly into supports for people with intellectual disabilities and their families who are waiting for services,” says Inclusion BC Executive Director Karla Verschoor. “Families and community agencies that support people with intellectual disabilities across BC have struggled with inadequate funding for a long time. Individuals and families continue to be told there’s not enough money in the CLBC budget for the services they need and face increasingly limited support options.”

On indigenous issues: “Budget 2019 announces funds for new revenue-sharing agreements with BC First Nations for $297 million over three years. The funds will be available to First Nations to invest in priorities to support their communities, and the Budget does not include much detail on how the money will be distributed but this is an important initiative to watch.” The government acknowledged that “the agreement to share provincial gaming revenue was reached after decades of work and advocacy by the First Nations Leadership Council, represented by the First Nations Gaming Commission, as directed through resolutions by Chiefs at assemblies of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.”

First Call BC: BC Budget 2019 Brings Financial Relief for Low-income Children, Youth and Their Families

West Coast LEAF: Budget 2019 Brings Welcome Improvements in Benefits but Falls Short on Legal Aid

Inclusion BC: BC Budget 2019: Investments addressing poverty are welcome, but more is needed

Metro Vancouver Alliance: 2019 Provincial Budget

Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division: Budget 2019’s child and youth mental health funding begins to fill service gap

Disability Alliance BC: The BC Budget 2019 is good news for people with disabilities

Parent Support Services Society of BC: 2019 BC Budget – What does it mean for Kinship Care Families?