The big news for families with children is that starting in October 2020 a new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit will replace the Early Childhood Tax benefit. In our annual Child Poverty Report Card we have been calling for improvements to this benefit for years. BC is the only province offering a child tax credit that cuts it off once a child turns six.
Thanks to our collective advocacy, government is increasing the maximum benefit amount to $1600 for the first child and extending it to families with children up to the age of 18. The total annual provincial investment once the benefit is in effect (starting October 2020) will be $380 million.
While First Call is thrilled with this significant investment in children, families will receive a reduced benefit if they make over $25,000/year, a threshold far below the poverty line. We would like to see this threshold raised to ensure the full benefit is available to more low-income families. We look forward to seeing what other measures will be included in BC’s upcoming Poverty Reduction Plan to reduce child and family poverty.
Thank you to everyone who answered our call for advocacy and participated in public budget consultations last fall. Advocacy works!
Other Budget News for Families
This budget adds an additional $9 million annually for child care, on top of the $1 billion in the 2018 budget. We support the continued investment in developing a universal child care system and encourage government to ensure accountability by directing investments into public and not-for-profit child care providers and expanding parent fee reductions. Further, at a minimum, government should ensure that child care professionals earn a living wage.
Rate Increases for Foster Parents and Matching Kinship Caregiver Payments
The budget increases foster parent rates – a raise that is long over-due and an important investment in the most vulnerable children and youth. New in this budget is increased kinship care-giver payments to match foster parents’ compensation. The aim is to reduce the number of children coming into government care due to family poverty, in keeping with Grand Chief Ed John’s recommendations. What isn’t clear is whether or not the caregiver must be in the Extended Family Program (which will see a 75% increase) or the Post-Adoption Assistance Program (which will see a 15% increase).
Revenue Sharing with First Nations
This budget commits approximately $3 billion in shared provincial revenue over the next 25 years to support First Nations communities, including an estimated $300 million over the next three years. Goals include implementing Grand Chief Ed John’s recommendations to help keep Indigenous children out of care, $550 million over 10 years to support the construction of 1,750 affordable housing units for on and off-reserve and a new K-12 curriculum to ensure all students are taught about Indigenous culture and history.
Income and Disability Assistance Rate Increases
Effective April 1, 2019, income and disability assistance rates will increase by $50 per adult per month. This is a disappointingly small increase, leaving people reliant on these benefits in deep poverty. There are other positive measures in the budget aimed at removing barriers to accessing assistance.
Additional Measures in Budget 2019
- new investments in health care for women, children and newborns
- immediately eliminating interest on provincial student loans
- additional funding for respite services for parents who provide care for children with disabilities
- greater investments to improve access to mental health care for children and youth including
more Foundry centres for youth 12-24
- new funding of $6 million (2020-21) and $13 million (2012-22) to the Ministry of Children and Family Development to make sure children in care benefit from provincial child tax benefits
- additional funding for housing including more modular housing units, a province-wide homelessness count and establishing a province-wide rent bank
Read More Budget Analysis From First Call Members and Partners
BC Federation of Students BC Budget 2019 Eliminates Interest on BC Student Loans
BC Teachers’ Federation Budget 2019 keeps education funding moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done for teacher recruitment and retention
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Nine things to know about BC Budget 2019
Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division Budget 2019’s child and youth mental health funding begins to fill service gap
Inclusion BC BC Budget 2019: Investments addressing poverty are welcome, but more is needed
YWCA Metro Vancouver How BC is Getting Closer to Affordable, Accessible Child Care
BC Poverty Reduction Coalition BC Budget: Making Life Better for Families in BC to Prevent Poverty