Finance Minister Carole James addressed residents of British Columbia about the COVID-19 pandemic early Tuesday afternoon.
The B.C. government has released an economic and fiscal update for 2020-21 to provide a summary of COVID-19 investments to date, as well as a scenario of revenue and deficit projections.
So far, government has supported people and businesses with $6.26 billion in COVID-19 supports to date. That includes the $5 billion in supplementary spending for B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan supports, such as workers benefits, rent supplements, income and disability assistance supports and economic recovery funding. These are in addition to $1.26 billion in other tax and relief measures for people and businesses, including the one-time increase to the climate action tax credit and property tax reductions for businesses.
James notes that the COVID-19 pandemic will mark British Columbians’ lifetimes in ways never thought possible, but that the Province is investing in people, businesses and communities to see them through the pandemic and build back better.
“B.C. has made extraordinary investments in people and businesses through B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan and we will continue to provide the supports people need as the pandemic and the economic impacts evolve,” said James.
With the pandemic response for British Columbians, and a significant revenue decline due to the pandemic, the Province’s total operating deficit for 2020-21 could reach a staggering $12.5 billion. In addition, James says the province as reached its highest unemployment rate since 1987.
“B.C.’s safe restart plan is creating signs of hope for our economy as consumer confidence increases. These results have only been possible because of our strong public health measures,” James said. “As we continue our work to create a strong recovery, we also have an opportunity to build a stronger B.C. that works for everyone in our province.”
James adds that British Columbia has made progress flattening the curve because of its strong health policy and a commitment to help keep each other safe. Further, the Province is building an economic recovery plan that puts people first, with input from residents, businesses and community organizations.
“The pandemic has exposed underlying gaps in our economy and society,” James said. “We have been reminded of the need for strong public services and supports, workplace safety and our collective responsibility to take care of each other, and I’m looking forward to putting people’s input into action as we move forward with the economic recovery of our province.”
As part of the COVID-19 Action Plan, $1.5 billion has been earmarked for economic recovery measures to be announced in September.