By Carole James
Our government has been hard at work putting money back in people’s pockets and lowering costs. With Budget 2019, we’re making the biggest middle-class tax cut in a generation. I’d like to highlight several programs and policies that will be of particular interest to people who live in our community.
We are working to ensure that B.C. is a fair, affordable place for renters. Limiting rent increases to the rate of inflation is providing greater certainty for renters. Previously, landlords could raise rents by inflation plus 2 percent each year. This new limit means, that someone paying $1,200 per month in rent could save $288 in 2019.
Under the province’s Rental Assistance Program, we’re increasing benefits to low-income working families by an average of $800 per year. Additional enhancements to the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program will increase the amount that seniors living independently can receive by an average of $930 per year.
If you’re going through a tough time, that shouldn’t result in your family losing their home. We’re delivering more robust protection for people threatened by potential renovictions and demovictions.
For the first time in B.C. history, the province will be funding local organizations to operate rent banks. These rent banks will provide short-term, low or no-interest loans so that renters don’t end up on the street because of a crisis.
Caring for caregivers
Community Living BC homeshare providers will see the first increase to their compensation since 2009. Family-based caregivers, like foster parents, will receive higher support payments starting April 1, the first increase in a decade. Extended family, like grandparents and aunties, who support children and keep them out of care, will finally have payments equal to foster parents.
Breaking the cycle of poverty is about making sure people have the fundamentals: a roof over your head, food on your table, and the opportunity to make life better for ourselves and our family. It’s also about opening doors for people so they can gain skills and get ahead.
In my time as Minister of Finance, one of the most meaningful moments for me was to confirm funding for our Provincial Tuition Waiver Program. Free tuition for English Language Learning, for Adult Basic Education and for B.C. students who are former youth-in-care goes to the heart of our values as a government, and we are seeing thousands take advantage of this opportunity.
No one who works hard for a living should be forced to live in poverty. Our government is giving the lowest paid workers in British Columbia a raise by setting us on a path to reach a minimum wage of more than $15 dollars an hour.
More than 240,000 B.C. families’ prescription medication became more affordable this January thanks to an investment of $105 million in the Fair PharmaCare program.
As of January 1, 2019, households earning up to $45,000 in net income annually are saving between $300 and $600 in deductibles, making prescription drugs more affordable to people when they need them. A new investment of $42 million will cover more drug options, including drugs that treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.
Those are just some of the highlights. For more detailed information on Budget 2019, please visit www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca.