Minister of Finance Carole James looks on as Premier John Horgan talks about the next steps of the COVID-19 action plan recently put in place by the provincial government during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A student loan freeze, $1,000 payments: Here’s what B.C.’s COVID-19 plan has for you

Help for renters is coming, Premier John Horgan says

One week after Ottawa unveiled their plan to support Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis, B.C. has unveiled theirs. Here’s what you need to know.

1. $1,000 for those affected by COVID-19

Finance Minister Carole James said people whose ability to work has been affected by the virus will receive a one-time $1,000 payment. The money will be tax-free and go to those who receive federal EI or the new benefits unveiled by Ottawa for those who don’t qualify for EI. In addition to laid-off workers, the sick or quarantined, you also qualify if you have sick kids or relatives to care for and if you must stay home because you can’t get childcare for your kids.

READ MORE: B.C. announces $5 billion financial relief for COVID-19 pandemic

2. Help for renters?

“No one will lose their apartments due to COVID-19,” Premier John Horgan said on Monday, but did not provide any concrete help for renters in today’s announcement. Horgan said an announcement would be made Wednesday – just one week before rent is due on April 1. Homeowners were told they could apply for a six-month mortgage deferral last week.

READ MORE: More than 1,000 B.C. tenants ‘personally at risk’ of eviction due to COVID-19: tenants union

3. Student loan payments to be frozen

The province is freezing payments and interest on all B.C. student loans. With this, all British Columbians with government-issued student loans will not need to pay them till Sept. 30, following the federal announcement of a similar freeze.

4. Tax help for businesses and individuals

All B.C. businesses with a payroll of more than $500,000 can now defer their employer health tax payments till Sept. 30. All smaller businesses were already exempt from the tax, which replaced the Medical Services Plan. Tax filing deadlines for the provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax are also delayed until Sept. 30.

Increases scheduled for April 1 for the provincial carbon tax, new PST registration requirements for e-commerce and the increased tax on sweetened carbonated drinks will be delayed until at least this fall.

The province says most British Columbians could see a boost to their Climate Action Tax Credit in July. A family of four could get up to $564.

Business and light- and major-industry property classes will get their school tax cut in half and, according to James, allow commercial landlords to immediately pass savings on to their tenants in triple-net leases.

Some people may be able to get BC Hydro payments deferred for six months and ICBC Autoplan payments paused for 90 days.

READ MORE: B.C. legislature meets briefly with minimum MLAs to deal with COVID-19

5. $1.5B set aside for economic recovery

The province will set aside money for whenever the economy recovers after the COVID-19 crisis. This dedicated $1.5 billion will go to the hardest-hit parts of the economy, such as hospitality, tourism and culture sectors.

READ MORE: B.C. reports 3 new COVID-19 deaths but 100 people have recovered, Henry says

READ MORE: B.C. screening care home workers as two more test positive for COVID-19

READ MORE: Vancouver businesses not obeying COVID-19 rules to get hit with fines of up to $50K


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