The B.C. government is working to help make life more affordable for British Columbians and support vulnerable families.
Government has provided low-income families with enhanced supports and is increasing opportunities to improve their economic well-being.
B.C. wages compared to other Canadian provinces
- Average hourly wages for employees in British Columbia: $25.50 per hour as of February 2017. B.C.’s average hourly youth wage is $15.15 as of February 2017.
- Effective Sept. 15, 2016, B.C.’s minimum wage increased from $10.45 per hour to $10.85 per hour. This new rate includes the 10 cents scheduled for the 2015 Consumer Price Index change, plus an additional 30 cents.
- A second increase of 50 cents will bring the minimum wage rate to $11.35, effective Sept. 15, 2017.
Employment Program of BC and training
- In 2017-18, the B.C. government will invest $327 million in employment and labour market programs.
- In April 2012, WorkBC (workbc.ca) Employment Services Centres opened in 84 communities throughout the province to provide the supports and services that unemployed British Columbians need to find and keep a job.
- Since launching, WorkBC centres have provided employment supports and services to more than 330,000 people.
- The WorkBC Employment Services Centres, along with satellite and outreach services for specialized populations and rural and remote areas, ensure quick and easy access to the full suite of employment services through one door.
- The Government of B.C. provides income and disability assistance to almost 190,000 people, investing $2.02 billion this year to help individuals and families in need.
- Budget 2017 provided an additional $199 million over three years to raise assistance levels for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) by $600 per year. This is in addition to the $170 million increase to disability assistance rates in 2016.
- The budget also includes nearly $8 million in new funding to exempt payments for children from the calculation of income and disability assistance amounts. B.C. will now have the most generous child benefit exemptions in Canada.
- For people receiving disability assistance, government is focused on providing a comprehensive system of supports for those who – through disability or other barriers – cannot work or who have difficulty working full-time.
- Everyone on income or disability assistance receives:
- Free Medical Services Plan coverage, as well as PharmaCare coverage, which provides 100% coverage of eligible prescription. In 2015-16, approximately 173,000 people on income and disability assistance received $368 million in Pharmacare benefits.
- Optical and dental benefits. Government invests about $5 million to provide eyeglasses and optical services to more than 30,000 people every year, and more than $55 million to provide dental and orthodontic services to more than 135,000 people.
- People with disabilities have access to even more support like wheelchairs, orthotics, hearings aids, medical transportation and nutritional supplements
- And when someone leaves disability assistance for employment, or federal programs like Old Age Security, they are eligible to keep these supplements. More than 22,500 people who have left disability assistance still receive these benefits.
- Recent changes to assistance programs strengthen the supports people need to get back into the workforce, help individuals with disabilities lead more independent lives, and help improve financial outcomes for vulnerable individuals and families, including:
- Making Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits and EI benefits for parents caring for critically ill children fully exempt for people on income and disability assistance.
- Launching the Single Parent Employment Initiative (SPEI) to help single parents on income and disability assistance gain the skills they need to find employment. Through SPEI, single parents on assistance may be eligible for up to 12 months of funded training for in-demand jobs or a paid work experience placement and child-care costs during their training or work placement and in the first year of employment. Single parents will also be able to remain on income assistance while attending a training program.
- Doubling the monthly income exemption for families with children who receive income assistance, from $200 to $400 a month, and increasing it from $300 to $500 a month for families who have a child with a disability to make the transition to employment easier.
- Families with children can now keep their supplemental health coverage, which includes free MSP premiums and 100% coverage of eligible prescription costs, as well as dental and optical coverage for a full year after they leave assistance for employment.
- Fully exempting child support payments from assistance calculations for all families on income and disability assistance.
- Annualized earning exemptions for British Columbians receiving disability assistance. A single person can now earn up to $9,600 a year without it affecting their disability assistance. This helps people whose ability to work can fluctuate throughout the year keep more of the money they earn.
- Raising the asset limit for Persons with Disabilities from $5,000 to $100,000 for families in which one person receives disability assistance. And to $200,000 for families in which two people receive disability assistance.
- Enabling people on disability assistance to receive cash gifts and inheritances with no impact on their assistance and removing the $8,000 annual cap on withdrawals from trust accounts for people on disability assistance.
- Since 2001, the number of people dependent on income and disability assistance has dropped by 24%, meaning almost 59,000 fewer British Columbians are collecting assistance in 2017 than in 2001.
- B.C. families generally have one of the lowest overall tax burdens in Canada when comparing income, consumption and payroll taxes.
- Provincial personal income taxes for most taxpayers have reduced by 37% or more since 2001, and today an additional 400,000 people no longer pay B.C. income tax.
- An individual earning $20,000 pays $723 less in provincial income taxes than they did in 2001.
- A senior couple earning $40,000 pays $708 less in provincial income taxes than they did in 2001.
- B.C.’s tax system also provides support for people raising children. A single parent on income assistance with one child under six could receive up to $8,063 per year in combined provincial and federal benefits. A couple with two children under six may receive up to $15,412 per year.
- The B.C. low-income climate action tax credit helps offset the impact of carbon tax paid by low-income individuals or families. The maximum annual payment is $115.50 per adult, and $34.50 per child ($115.50 for the first child in a single-parent family).
- The Canada Child Benefit (cra-arc.gc.ca) (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. Depending on the age of the child, a family could receive between $450 and $533 per child per month through the CCB.
- The B.C. government has invested $4.9 billion since 2001 to provide affordable housing (bchousing.org) for more than 104,000 low-income individuals, seniors and families in communities throughout the province each year. Learn more about affordable housing investments in B.C.
- Since 2001, the B.C government has completed close to 24,000 new units of affordable housing.
- The Province has committed $920 million this past year to create close to 5,300 new units of affordable rental housing for low-income households in B.C.
- Introduced in 2006, the Rental Assistance Program (bchousing.org) (RAP) currently helps more than 10,000 families with the cost of private market rental housing. The program provides eligible low-income, working families with a household income of less than $35,000 a year, with cash assistance to help with their monthly rent payments in the private market. The average monthly payment is approximately $400.
- Another 20,000 families live in provincially subsidized housing.
- Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (bchousing.org) (SAFER) provides cash assistance to eligible B.C. residents age 60 or over, who pay rent for their home. Nearly 19,900 seniors’ households receive benefits through the program. The average monthly payment is approximately $175.
- In total, close to 52,800 seniors’ households across British Columbia receive support to make their housing more affordable, including nearly 21,300 households in independent social housing.
- The B.C. home renovation tax credit of up to $1,000 assists seniors and persons with disabilities with the cost of certain permanent home renovations to improve accessibility, mobility or functionality in a home.
- The Home Adaptations for Independence (bchousing.org) program provides financial assistance of up to $20,000 per home to help low-income seniors and people with disabilities with home modifications for accessible, safe and independent living.
Affordable health care
- Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, Medical Service Plan premiums will be reduced by 50% for households with an annual net income of up to $120,000. More than two million British Columbians – including 70,000 single parent families – already pay no premiums, and following this change a further two million will see a 50% reduction in their premiums.
- The government is also raising the income threshold below which households are fully exempt from MSP by $2,000. This means individuals earning up to $26,000 will pay no premiums, and couples with two children earning up to $35,000 will pay no premiums.
- As of January 2017, all children were exempted from MSP premiums and the monthly rate for each household is based only on the number of adults.
- Through Fair PharmaCare, every British Columbian is eligible for assistance with prescription costs. Deductible levels are set up to reflect patients’ ability to pay – the lowest income earners pay no deductible at all.
- More than 9% of patients registered with PharmaCare were eligible for 100% coverage. This works out to some 260,000 patients.
- Each year, government provides dental services to nearly 135,000 income assistance recipients and children in low income families through the Healthy Kids Program, at a cost of about $55 million.
- Through the Healthy Kids Program, children qualify for up to $1,400 every two years to pay for dental care, including x-rays, fillings, extractions and cleanings.
- The Healthy Kids Program also provides coverage for prescription eyeglasses once per year, per child.
- As part of the provincial Healthy Start program, government has implemented the Nurse-Family Partnership, an evidence-based, intensive public health nurse home visitation program that supports young first-time mothers and their children who are facing socioeconomic challenges.
- The B.C. government has committed approximately $352.5 million for Early Years spending in 2017-18, a 67% increase since 2001.
- Since November 2014, government has invested $26.5 million to support the creation of over 4,300 new licensed child-care spaces in B.C. as part of government’s commitment to create 13,000 spaces by 2020. This builds on the more than 113,000 licensed child-care spaces that are currently funded throughout the province.
- Budget 2017 provides an additional $20 million to help support the creation of up to 1,900 new child-care spaces and 1,000 before- and after-school spaces.
- Government provides $119.9 million in child care subsidies to help low-income families with the cost of child care – supporting about 20,000 children and their families each month. And, as of April 2016, child-support payments no longer influence eligibility for parents already receiving or applying for monthly child-care subsidies.
- While fees for individual child-care facilities are set by their operators, government provides $89 million in operating funding to facilities to help cut down on the costs that are passed on to parents.
Healthy children, educated young adults
- In 2016-17, the B.C. government invested more than $51 million for the CommunityLINK program and $11.2 million in an additional Vulnerable Student Supplement that supports meal and snack programs, child and youth workers, inner-city and community schools, literacy and healthy schools programs for vulnerable students.
- There are 326 funded StrongStart BC programs supporting over 385 B.C. communities.
- In 2015-16, the government also created the $1,200 BC Training and Education Savings Grant to help parents save for their child’s post-secondary education.
- For former youth in care who are looking to pursue training and education beyond high school, there are a number of supports available, including the Youth Education Assistance Fund (studentaidbc.ca) , providing grants of up to $5,500 per program year.
- Twelve B.C. post-secondary institutions now offer tuition waivers or bursaries to former youth in care. Bursary or waiver recipients may also be eligible for the Youth Futures Education Fund (vancouverfoundation.ca) , which helps cover expenses beyond tuition. Government has provided $500,000 over the past two years to support the fund.
- Agreements with Young Adults (AYAs) provide financial assistance to youth formerly in care or on a Youth Agreement to upgrade their education or sign up for rehabilitative programs. B.C. now leads Canada with changes to its AYA program, including:
- Adding life skills programming and helping to cover costs like housing, child care, tuition and health care while former youth in government care go back to school or attend a rehabilitation program;
- Doubling the amount of time young people can be on a youth agreement, from up to 24 months, to a total of up to 48 months; and,
- Expanding the eligibility age limit by two years to allow young adults to receive supports up until their 26th birthday.
- B.C.’s approach to reducing poverty is working. For example, the province’s child poverty rate declined by 50% between 2006 and 2014. That’s approximately 79,000 fewer children living in low income. During the same period, the number of British Columbians living in low income dropped by approximately 162,000 – or 27%. No other province has matched that rate of decline.
- Budget 2017-18 has committed $140 million over the next three years to enhance mental-health and substance-use services throughout the province.