COVID-19 Provincial Support and General Information
For an overview of how Education, Child Care, Employment, Businesses, Housing & Tenancy, Transportation, Travel, Mental Health, and Medical Service Plans are impacted by the provincial response to COVID-19, please click here. On March 31, the BC Government extended the province-wide State of Emergency for another two weeks, until end-of-day on April 14, 2020.
COVID-19 Action Plan
On March 23, 2020, British Columbia released their COVID-19 Action Plan. The Action Plan includes $2.8 billion for people and services, and $2.2 billion for businesses. Of those funds, $1.7 billion are allocated for essential services, such as health care and tenant support. The province also committed $1.5 billion to plan the province’s recovery when the crisis has ended.
For those whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19, there will be a one-time $1,000 tax free benefit for eligible British Columbians. The B.C. Climate Action Tax Credit will also be increased and expanded in July 2020. As many as 86% of British Columbians will see extra money from this enhancement. The complete Action Plan is available here.
Emergency Program Act
Using the extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act, the BC Government is issuing a series of ministerial orders to ensure a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency. These include:
- Supply chain: Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution; taking a more active role in co-ordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail; and suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day.
- Protecting consumers: Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.
- Enforcement: Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.
- Travel: Ensuring all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.
Additional information on the Emergency Program Act is available here.
List of essential services in B.C. during COVID-19
Essential services are those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning. These services should and are encouraged to remain open. They must, however, follow the orders and guidance provided by the PHO to ensure safe operations and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
The list includes all health-care services, including acute care (hospitals), secondary/long-term care, other health services and caregivers, and health first responders (paramedics). the list also includes vulnerable population service providers, critical infrastructure service providers, food and agriculture service providers, transportation, infrastructure and manufacturing, sanitation, communications, information sharing and information technology (IT), and non-health essential service providers.
The full list is available here.
Employment Standards Act
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of British Columbia has made two significant changes to the Employment Standards Act. These changes are meant to support workers both during the current COVID-19 public health emergency and in the long term.
Firstly, changes will allow workers to take unpaid, job-protected leave immediately if they are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19. This means workers who are ill, need to self-isolate, need to care for their child or other dependent, or whose employer is concerned that the employee may expose others to risk, will be able to take leave without putting their job at risk. The leave will be retroactive to Jan. 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in B.C.
Secondly, to better support workers on an ongoing basis, the changes also provide up to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for people who cannot work due to illness or injury. This is a permanent change to the act that brings B.C. in line with all other provinces in Canada.
WorkSafe BC was established by provincial legislation to oversee a no-fault insurance system for the workplace. WorkSafe BC partners with employers and workers in B.C. to promote the prevention of workplace injury, illness, and disease and to rehabilitate those who are injured and provide timely return to work. For information relating to COVID-19, click on the following links:
Information and updates related to COVID-19 and the housing sector, including information for renters, housing providers, and visitors, is available from BC Housing at this link. For announcements on social housing and homelessness, click here. For BC Housing’s eviction and rent adjustment policy, click here.
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC)
Customers on a monthly Autoplan payment plan, who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19, can defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty. Applications for deferrals can be made through the online resource tool. If needed, the customer support team is available at 604-661-2723 or 1-800-665-6442.
Additional information and updates from the ICBC related to COVID-19 are available here.
Support with Hydro Bills
Residential customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 will receive a credit to help cover the cost of their electricity bills. The credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the past year at their home and does not have to be repaid. Small businesses that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months. BC Hydro is waiving bills for these customers from April to June 2020.
The full announcement is available here.
Support for Renters and Landlords
To support people and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Province is introducing a new temporary rental supplement, halting evictions and freezing rents, among other actions. Measures include:
- A new temporary rent supplement will provide up to $500 per month, paid directly to landlords.
- Halting evictions by ensuring a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. However, in exceptional cases where it may be needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the property, landlords will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for a hearing.
- Halting the enforcement of existing eviction notices issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch, except in extreme cases where there are safety concerns. The smaller number of court-ordered evictions are up to the courts, which operate independently of government.
- Freezing new annual rent increases during the state of emergency.
- Preventing landlords from accessing rental units without the consent of the tenant (for example, for showings or routine maintenance), except in exceptional cases where it 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.
Further details are available at this link.
Support for Food Banks
To support vulnerable, the Province is providing a $3-million emergency grant from the Community Gaming Grants program to Food Banks British Columbia. Food Banks British Columbia will distribute the money among food banks provincewide to support their immediate needs to buy and distribute food, pay employees and cover other costs essential to the delivery of their food programs.
Further details from the announcement are available here.
Provincial Tax Changes
As part of their COVID-19 Action Plan, the Government of British Columbia has announced several changes to provincial taxes, an overview of which is available here.
Deferred Tax Payments
Effective immediately, B.C. is extending filing and payment deadlines for the following taxes until September 30, 2020:
- Employer health tax
- Provincial sales tax (including municipal and regional district tax)
- Carbon tax
- Motor fuel tax
- Tobacco tax
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.
Reduced School Tax Rates for Businesses
School tax rates for commercial properties (Classes 4, 5 and 6) will be reduced by 50% for the 2020 tax year.
Enhanced B.C. Climate Action Tax Credit
An additional one-time payment will be made in July 2020 on top of the regular climate action tax credit amount for qualifying individuals and families.
Schools and Education
British Columbia has suspended K-12 learning in all classrooms. A decision on when and how to return will be made in partnership with school districts and independent schools. The province has also frozen student loan payments for six months, until September 20, 2020. Information and updates on school closures are available at this link.
Support for Students
To help those with B.C. student loans, the Province is freezing B.C. student loan payments for six months, starting March 30, 2020. Federal student loan payments are being frozen as well.
Students attending British Columbia’s 25 public post-secondary institutions, who are experiencing emergency financial pressures, will benefit from a one-time investment of $3.5 million in emergency financial assistance. This will supplement existing student emergency financial assistance, and can be used to help with a broad range of costs, including living expenses, food, travel, portable computers and other supports for students who are not already able to study remotely.
The full announcement is available here.
Financial support for child-care providers and early childhood educators was announced, and centres that remain open are eligible for seven-times their average monthly government funding, covering an estimated 75% of a facility’s average monthly operating expenses.
Additional details on enhanced funding for child-care providers is available here.
The announcement regarding support for child-care providers during COVID-19, click here.
Support for those receiving income or disability assistance
To ensure B.C.’s most vulnerable do not encounter additional barriers, the Province is implementing a series of temporary supports and supplements. There will be a $300 monthly COVID-19 supplement for three months for those on disability and income assistance. This assistance is available for those who are not eligible for emergency federal support programs such as CERB. There is also a temporary exemption on the $2,000 federal support on EI for people receiving disability and income assistance. For those with a disability bus pass, the $52 charge will be put on the April cheques for those on disability and income assistance. This will continue as long as transit fares are waived.
The full announcement, including further details, is available here.
Support for Seniors
British Columbia launched a special help line (#211) that matches seniors who need support with non-medical essentials, to volunteers in their community that are willing to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. The service will be available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Support for the Arts
As part of the Action Plan, the BC Government is implementing the following initiatives to support the arts sector:
- Spring and Fall Operating Assistance clients will be receiving 50% of their last year’s operating grant as a pre-payment for the next intake cycle (April and September) in early April.
- Operating Assistance clients and eligible project clients will receive a one-time supplement in early April. This one-time grant will range (maximum $15,000) depending on the size of your organization.
- A blackout period on funding for activities taking place between now and June 30 that involve travel and/or in-person gatherings. It will be extended as needed. The deadlines for Professional Projects, Arts Based Community Development and Scholarships have also been extended.
- The Spring intake for Touring and Professional Development is deferred until the August intake.
Further details on arts funding are available here.
Guidance to Faith-Based Organizations
As pillars of strength in communities, faith-based services have an important role in connecting the community, contributing to beneficial and safe social interactions as well as our outbreak response, like the current COVID-19 pandemic. This document provides faith-based organizations with guidance – based on what we know about COVID-19 to date – on how to plan and prepare, prevent infection, and protect members that access and work for these organizations.
The document is available here.
BC Centre for Disease Control
Information and updates about COVID-19, including prevention, how to protect yourself, and symptoms and treatment, are available at the BCCDC covid-19 website. More detailed resources are available about:
Information from the Provincial Health Officer, including current Public Health Directives related to COVID-19, are available at this link.
Information for Funeral Homes, Health Care Facilities
To provide provincial guidance to ensure the safety of workers handling COVID-19 suspected or positive decedents. To inform standardized operating procedures and address specific COVID-19 considerations with respect to the care of the body after death.
The full document is available here.
Medical Services Plan (MSP)
The B.C. Government is waiving the wait period for Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage for people moving back to British Columbia from areas impacted by COVID-19. The B.C. government is also planning to provide health coverage to British Columbians who are out of province and unable to return. For more information click here.
The BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has published a poster on managing COVID-19 Stress, Anxiety and Depression, which is available here. For information from MindHealth BC, click here. Anyone in need of help can call one of the following numbers:
- 9-1-1 in an emergency.
- 1-800-SUICIDE(1-800-784-2433) if you are considering suicide or are concerned about someone who may be.
- 310Mental Health Support at 310-6789 (no area code needed) for emotional support, information, and resources specific to mental health.
- Kid’s Help Phoneat 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a professional counsellor, 24 hours a day.
- Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Serviceat 1-800-663-1441 (toll-free in B.C.) or 604-660-9382 (in the Lower Mainland) to find resources and support.
British Columbians can talk or text with a ServiceBC agent about non-health related information and services such as: child-care, travel restrictions, and business and funding support.
Text: 1-604-630-0300 | Call: 1-888-268-4319
Vancouver Foundation connects the generosity of donors with the energy, ideas and time of people in the community. They have launched a Community Response Fund available to non-profits. For more information, click here
Additional Health Information and Resources
Provincial and Municipal News