Attorney General David Eby, (left), and Premier John Horgan look on as Finance Minister Carole James delivers the budget speech from the legislative assembly at Legislature in Victoria, B.C. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. budget will have ‘very little impact’ on poverty, advocates say

New Child Opportunity Benefit and income assistance increases are too small for a large effect

Advocates for Victoria’s marginalized and poverty-stricken populations concluded that a drop-in-the-bucket from the province is better than nothing at all.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Carole James revealed the 2019 provincial budget. One of the budget’s new initiatives was a B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit, which will replace the Early Child Benefit Tax, and will come into place in October 2020. The program will give families earning less than $25,000 up to $1,600 per year for one child, $2,600 for two children or $3,400 for three children. Families earning up to $97,000 with one child, or $114,487 with two children, can also apply for lower amounts.

“We know that it will help a lot of people in poverty, but it won’t address the depth of poverty in B.C.,” said Douglas King, executive director at the Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS). “The poverty line for families is $40,000 in B.C., so the $25,000 and below have a long way to go.”

READ MORE: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

James also announced a $50 per month increase to income assistance and disability benefits, the third $50 raise in as many years.

“At the end of the day we can’t complain about it, because for so many years we saw no movement in that regard,” King said. “It’s a good thing they’re raising it, but perspective-wise it will have very very little impact.”

Wendy Cox, executive director at the Victoria Disability Resource Centre, echoed King’s thoughts.

“Increases are always great but persons with disabilities who are on disability assistance are still well under the poverty line,” Cox said in an emailed statement. “The shelter portion allotted for a single person with a disability is $375 a month. I am not sure there is anywhere in B.C. where one can find a room for rent for $375 a month, let alone an apartment.”

ALSO READ: $10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

King was most happy about the $14 million investment into employment standards operations, hoping that more policies would be developed to help keep people safe at work.

“We’re really relieved to see that because the involvement of the branch has been pretty minimal,” King said. “About 40 per cent of the people below the poverty line are working poor, and the government needs to be there to help them.”

More information about potential policy changes and funding will be announced in the coming weeks when updates to the Poverty Reduction Strategy will be announced.

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