B.C. tables economic stabilization act, confirms COVID-19 supports

The amendments introduced authorize deficit budgets for the next three years

NEW legislation allows government to run deficit budgets.

“We are making sure people and business have the support they need, while we work together to restart and rebuild an economy that works for everyone,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance, on Wednesday. “Much has changed since we released Budget 2020, and deficits will occur as a result of lower government revenues and our plan to invest in people and support our province’s recovery.”

The amendments introduced authorize deficit budgets for the next three years, while the Province supports economic recovery from COVID-19. Additionally, the amendments allow government to continue to table supplementary estimates before the legislative assembly. The amendments also clarify the existing limits and uses of special warrants while the legislative assembly is not in session to maintain essential services and respond to provincial emergencies and disasters like a pandemic.

While the amendments allow deficit budgets, the legislation makes no changes to salary holdback requirements for executive council for years where deficits occur.

The Economic Stabilization Act brings the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers into law and updates the eligibility date to March 1, 2020. The change will allow people whose income is affected by COVID-19 and who filed federal employment insurance claims between March 1 and March 15 to benefit from the support. The application for these individuals will be available as of June 26, 2020. Almost 600,000 people have been approved to receive the benefit to date.

The legislation introduced also confirms many of the previously announced supports for people and business from the COVID-19 Action Plan, including:

* authorizing filing and payment deferrals for employer health tax, provincial sales tax, hotel tax, carbon tax, motor fuel tax and tobacco tax to September 30, 2020;

* postponing the date that late payment penalties apply for commercial properties in classes 4,5,6,7 and 8 to October 1, 2020, to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax, without penalty;

* allowing municipalities to keep school taxes and the police tax collected for the Province until January 2021; and

* requiring municipalities to remit taxes they collect for TransLink in July 2020 so it can continue operating, as well as allowing other municipalities to continue to make their service payments to BC Transit.

Other measures from the B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan are being done through regulation, such as reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties, enhancing the B.C. climate action tax credit and pausing B.C. student loan payments.