YWCA Metro Vancouver’s Statement on the 2020 Budget Announcement
BC Budget 2020 delivers on the final year of its three-year commitments set out in budget 2018 but could have done more for people living in poverty, particularly single mothers and their children. We were disappointed to see no new increase to income and disability assistance rates and the budget falls short on funding to make legal aid accessible for the many who desperately need it.
At a Glance: Budget News for Single Mother-led Families
Child Opportunity Benefit:
The new BC Child Opportunity Benefit will be implemented starting in October 2020, providing a monthly tax-free payment to support nearly 300,000 families with children under 18 years of age.
Replacing the previous BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit which ended when a child turned six, the BC Child Opportunity Benefit will last until a child turns 18, saving families up to seven times the amount over a child’s lifetime.
Families with children under 18 will receive up to $1,600 per year for the first child, up to $2,600 per year for families with two children and up to $3,400 per year for families with three children.
While this is positive news for families, the Child Opportunity Benefit does not replace the need for immediate and significant increases to income and disability assistance.
Child Care BC:
After a historic injection of funding in 2018, the BC government continues to invest in child care, however, we see funding begin to plateau from 2020 through to 2023 after the exponential year-on-year increases seen previously. Without significant increases in funding, the YWCA is concerned the Province will not be on track for a universal child care system by the end of this decade.
The YWCA is pleased to see another $1/hour wage increase for Early Childhood Educators because recruitment and retention continue to be an issue. We are also pleased to see new schools being built around the province which includes child care facilities.
In 2018, the government committed to building 22,000 new child care spaces over three years. To date, the government has funded about 10,400 spaces so it is unclear whether this commitment will be met in year three. However, the government has opened two funding application windows in spring and fall 2020 to help support its commitment.
After its major $7 billion investment in 2018 over 10 years to support housing affordability, this year’s budget provides an additional $118 million in operating funding and $56 million in capital funding for the development of 200 new units of supportive modular housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
In 2018, the government announced the Women’s Transition Housing Fund of $734 million over 10 years to build and operate 1,500 new units of housing for women, including transition houses, safe homes, second-stage and long-term housing. It is unclear how the government is tracking against this commitment.
While the YWCA is pleased to see the monthly earnings exemption for families on temporary assistance increase by $150 per month, this will not help the many single mothers who are unable to work and still receive well under a liveable rate in income assistance.
Access to Justice:
Budget 2020 provides $212 million over three years to improve timely access to justice, and improve the quality of services, including improving Indigenous peoples’ experience with the legal system. The new funding includes $57 million for legal aid services focused on ensuring resources are available to provide legal advice, information and representation. This includes the $26 million announced in 2019.
As we understand it, the $57 million will be focused on enhancing wages for legal aid lawyers rather than increasing entitlement. The YWCA acknowledges that while increasing wages is important, it’s not enough, especially for women and mothers who have experienced abuse and are then having to deplete their savings before being eligible for Legal Aid. Currently, three in five applicants are still being denied.