BC Premier John Horgan announced the province’s COVID-19 Action Plan Monday in Victoria.
“In extraordinary times, extraordinary measures are required,” Horgan said.
The plan totals $5 billion. A total of $2.8 billion to help people pay the bills and fund the services, such as health care.
The other $2.2 billion is for relief for businesses and their recovery after the pandemic.
BC’s Emergency Benefit for workers will provide a tax-free, one-time, $1,000 payment to residents who can’t work due to the pandemic. This includes laid-off workers, parents staying home while their children are home, and those looking after sick family members. Student loans are frozen for six months as of March 30, and BC Hydro and ICBC are offering deferred payments.
BC’s Finance Minister Carole James said the plan addresses the issues facing businesses in the wake of the pandemic.
“These are difficult times, businesses, large and small are struggling to find ways to keep their doors open and look after their employees. I want businesses to know that we’re here to support you as we get on the path to recovery,” James said.
To reduce the pressure on businesses, the government is deferring provincial tax filings, and payment deadlines to September 30, 2020, for the Provincial Sales Tax, Municipal and Regional District Tax, Tobacco Tax, Motor Fuel Tax, Carbon Tax. Businesses can defer their employer health tax payments. The government is also postponing a number of new taxes and increases on existing taxes, originally set for April 1.
Government House Leader Mike Farnworth opened the extraordinary session of the BC Legislature after Horgan’s announcement.
“I just want to acknowledge that today’s proceedings are unique, probably unique in the history of this chamber and this province, and they reflect the seriousness of the circumstances in which we find ourselves — not just here in the province, but across the country.”
Just 12 MLA’s, four opposition, and eight government members convened to pass two key emergency pieces of legislation: amendments to the B.C. Employment Standards Act to ensure workers can’t lose their job due to self-isolation, or because they are caring for a family member. And a supply bill to bring the province’s COVID-19 Action Plan into effect.
The premier also addressed the issue of rent payments.
“No one will lose their apartment because of COVID-19,” Horgan said.
The government will release more details of its renters’ plan on Wednesday