Thousands of B.C. residents applied for the $1,000 emergency benefit for B.C. workers within minutes of applications opening on Friday.
B.C. Minister of Finance Carole James said the one-time, tax-free benefit is meant to help B.C. workers having difficulty making ends meet during the pandemic.
She said the process to apply is simple and people can apply now online at gov.bc.ca/workerbenefit
James said the government received more than 16,389 applications in the first 45 minutes of applications opening Friday.
Most people who are eligible for the new federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) are also eligible for the B.C. emergency funds, including those who have run out of employment insurance (EI) benefits and qualify for the CERB, the ministry said.
The B.C. emergency benefit is only available for those who are B.C. residents, have met the eligibility requirements for the CERB, and have been approved for the CERB, even if they have not received a benefit yet.
It is tax-free, and not employment or self-employment income. Therefore, it does not need to be reported as income to Service Canada.
James acknowledged that the CERB guidelines still leaves some people falling through the cracks, such as working seniors, but said they used the federal benefit as a guide to reach as many people as possible in a timely manner.
“Building a new program, building a system that is able to absorb the kinds of pressures that we are seeing on the system already in 45 minutes, you need to make sure that we do this as quickly as possible and get the supports to people,” said James.
She noted that the CERB benefit has been expanded to include people who are self-employed, contractors, and those who are making a small amount of money.
Still, there are gaps, for example seniors who receive the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER,) which helps B.C. seniors with low to moderate incomes, disqualify for the B.C. government’s $500 rent rebate.
“People who are receiving SAFER won’t be eligible for this benefit, but depending on how much the senior is making they may be eligible for CERB, which means they may be eligible for this emergency benefit,” said James.
“We’ve tried to capture as many people as we can through these programs and services but I acknowledge there will be people who are unique or in a unique circumstance and we are continuing to gather that information.”
To qualify, British Columbian workers must also be at least 15 years old, agree to file a 2019 B.C. income tax return, and not be receiving provincial income assistance or disability assistance.
Also starting Friday, people can call 778 309-4630 or toll-free within B.C. at 1-855-955-3545, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (PDT) for general support or questions.
Applications over the phone will begin on May 4.
The ministry said payments will start to go out within days of application.
Original Link: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020FIN0023-000743