British Columbia

$300 monthly aid announced for British Columbians on income, disability assistance during COVID-19

B.C. has announced $300 in monthly financial aid for people on disability and income assistance and certain seniors in the province as part of the government's $5-billion financial aid plan.

Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction says 250,000 people will be eligible

A woman sits on a bench in downtown Vancouver on April 1, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The provincial government is temporarily adding $300 to the monthly amount people on income and disability assistance receive to help them during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said roughly 250,000 people are automatically eligible to receive the benefit on top of their regular support cheques for the months of April, May and June. 

Minister Shane Simpson said the benefit will come with the next round of cheques on April 22, with no application required.

"We know that COVID-19 is having a serious impact on all British Columbians. We know that people are concerned and they're scared. We know that people who are living in poverty and living vulnerable are even more scared and concerned as they move forward," Simpson said Thursday.

The supplement will also go to low-income seniors who receive the B.C. Senior's Supplement and people who receive income or disability assistance and live in a special care facility.

A single person on disability currently receives $1,183 a month, which will become $1,483 after adding the new supplement. A single parent with two children currently sees $1,609 a month, receiving $1,909 with the benefit.

In a separate measure, the ministry said people who receive assistance from the province will not see money clawed back from their cheques if they qualify for the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Meanwhile, those on assistance who are part of the B.C. Bus Pass Program will have a $52 transportation supplement added to their income cheques as B.C. Transit and TransLink are not currently charging bus passengers. That money will also be included on the next cheque and will continue until the companies reinstate fares.

A woman waits for a bus on a near empty Robson Street in Vancouver on March 30, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The measures are part of the province's $5-billion financial aid plan to help British Columbians as the pandemic paralyzes the economy.

The plan included a monthly rebate for renters up to $500 a month. Simpson said those on disability and income assistance will not be eligible for that grant. 

The minister acknowledged there are people who might not have internet access to learn more about financial aid available to them because public spaces, like community centres and libraries, have been shut down.

In those cases, Simpson said the ministry is asking the public not to come to their offices for help, but instead reach out by phone by calling 1-866-866-0800. He said the ministry is also working with local agencies who directly support people on assistance to connect them with support.