2019 BC Budget – Child Benefit Program, Budget Surplus, Increase To Income Assistance, Drop Interest On Student Loans, First Nations Investments

Finance Minister Carole James

Victoria – The theme for Budget 2019 is to creates opportunities and make life better for people. With those words, Finance Minister Carole James outlined the nuts and bolts of the fiscal plan for the upcoming year.

From the Government’s release (The entire document can be found here):

Budget 2019 introduces the B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit, directly returning nearly $400 million to British Columbian families raising children, starting October 2020. For a family’s first child, the benefit is as high as $1,600 a year, increasing to $2,600 for two children and $3,400 for three children. Families will receive the B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit from the day their child is born until reaching 18 years of age.

This benefit, along with the full elimination of Medical Service Plan (MSP) premiums, will give middle-class families the largest reduction in their taxes in a generation:

  • A family of four earning $60,000 will have its provincial taxes reduced by up to 60%, compared to 2016, putting more than $2,500 back into this family’s pocket.
  • A family of four earning $80,000 will have its provincial taxes reduced by up to 43%, compared to 2016, putting almost $2,400 back into this family’s pocket.
  • A family of four earning $100,000 will have its provincial taxes reduced by up to 22%, compared to 2016, putting almost $1,600 back into this family’s pocket.

To help make sure young people are able to start their careers without being saddled with debt, Budget 2019 eliminates interest from all new and existing British Columbia student loans.As of today, all B.C. student loans will stop accumulating interest. This means an average graduate would save $2,300 in interest, based on a $28,000 combined federal and provincial loan with a 10-year repayment period.  

Introducing the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit – starting in October 2020 – that will provide families with one child up to $1,600 per year, two children up to $2,600 and three children up to $3,400. Over the course of a child’s upbringing, families with one child will receive as much as $28,800. For families with two children, that number can exceed $40,000 in support. Eliminating interest on British Columbia student loans.

As of February 19, 2019, all B.C. student loans will stop accumulating interest; saving someone with $28,000 in combined provincial and federal student loans $2,300 over the 10-year repayment period. Fully eliminating MSP premiums on Jan. 1, 2020, saving families as much as $1,800 per year. Increasing income and disability assistance rates by an additional $50 per month, meaning a total increase of $150 per month, or $1,800 per year since Budget Update 2017.

Investing $26 million in income and disability assistance enhancements to the B.C. Employment Assistance program to help remove barriers to accessing support, such as removing requirements that make it harder for older adults, youth and persons with mental-health issues to access the program; helping people get identification so they can access income assistance; and extending the shelter rate for those paying room and board to a family member.

As part of Budget 2019, First Nations in British Columbia will have a stable, long-term source of funding to invest in their communities’ priorities, through a historic revenue-sharing agreement between the Province and the First Nations Leadership Council.

Starting April 2019, approximately $3 billion over 25 years will be shared with B.C. First Nations, meaning every First Nation community in B.C. will be eligible for between $250,000 and $2 million annually through the agreement. 

Budget Outlook

Budget 2019 projects surpluses of:

  • $274 million in 2019-20
  • $287 million in 2020-21
  • $585 million in 2021-22

The B.C. government has included several layers of prudence in the fiscal plan to help account for lower than expected revenues, unforeseen expenses or emergencies. Budget 2019 includes a forecast allowance of $500 million in 2019-20, $300 million in 2020-21, and $300 million in 2021-22. Budget 2019 also includes contingencies of $750 million in 2019-20, $400 million in 2020-21 and $400 million in 2021-22.

Revenue Outlook

Total government revenue is forecast at $59 billion in 2019-20, $60 billion in 2020-21 and $62.5 billion in 2021-22. This growth is driven by strengthening economic activity; there are no new revenue-raising tax measures in Budget 2019.

Expense Outlook

Total expenses over the three-year fiscal plan are forecast at $58.3 billion in 2019-20, $59.5 billion in 2020-21 and $61.6 billion in 2021-22.

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