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Emergency supports for vulnerable British Columbians

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 12:28 PDT, Thu April 2, 2020

BC is implementing temporary supports and supplements to ensure vulnerable members of our population don’t face additional barriers during the COVID-19 crisis.

People currently receiving income or disability assistance in BC will have their federal employment insurance benefits temporarily exempted for the next three months, making them eligible for the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) without reductions to their monthly assistance payments.

Anyone on income or disability assistance who is ineligible for the CERB and other emergency federal support programs will be provided with an automatic $300 monthly provincial supplement for the next three months. This supplement will also be provided to low-income seniors who currently receive the BC Senior’s Supplement.

All BC Bus Pass Program users receiving income assistance and disability assistance will receive the $52 Transportation Supplement for the duration of the suspension of BC Transit and Translink bus fares. This money will be included on monthly cheques.

Existing Compass passes under the BC Bus Program will remain active so people do not need to reapply for future bus passes. This also ensures people can use services that still charge fares, such as SkyTrain and SeaBus.

Eligible low-income seniors will continue to have an active bus pass provided by the BC Bus Pass Program, with no change.

“We are putting in place measures that complement the federal crisis measures to support our most vulnerable populations and ensure they do not fall deeper into poverty as a result of COVID-19,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This is a stressful time for everyone, but for those struggling to put food on the table at the best of times, it is important that we ensure there are no additional barriers to get what they need to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.” 

The provincial Vulnerable Population Working Group is continuing to identify, assess and address immediate challenges faced by five specific groups: people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness and living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private single-residence occupancies and tenants in social and supportive housing.

The working group includes representatives from many ministries and groups across the province. Reducing poverty is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

For more on the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, visit www.gov.bc.ca/sdpr

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