A new benefit will provide families in British Columbia with tax relief, depending on their household income and the number of children they have.
The B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit replaces an existing tax program in the 2019-20 provincial budget and will provide almost $400 million a year to about 290,000 families.
Families with one child under 18 will receive as much as $1,600 a year, while families with two kids will get up to $2,600 and three children up to $3,400.
The benefit goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2020, and parents will be eligible for it when they apply for the Canada Child Benefit.
The government says the new program will expand the current Early Childhood Tax Benefit and provide families “with substantially more annual support” for longer because it goes to age 18 and does not end when a child turns six.
The maximum benefit of $1,600 is also more than double the previous top amount.
Finance Minister Carole James described the program as “transformational” in her budget speech on Tuesday.
“From the ability to put healthy meals on the dinner table, to being able to buy your child a good winter coat, that kind of support is going to make an incredible difference,” she said.
Under the program, a family earning up to $25,000 a year will get $1,600, with the benefit reduced by 4% of a family’s net income over that amount until it reaches $700 for the first child, $680 for the second child and $660 for each subsequent child under 18.
The benefit is phased out at a rate at 4% for families with a net income over $80,000, and the thresholds between $25,000 and $80,000 will be indexed to the inflation rate.
That means a family earning between $47,500 and $80,000 a year with one child will receive $700 annually, and a family earning between $55,500 and $80,000 with two children will get $1,380 annually.
Other budget highlights:
> Interest is immediately eliminated on all new and existing student loans from the provincial government, which means an average student would save $2,300 in interest, based on a combined federal and provincial loan of $28,000 being repaid over 10 years.
> A first-time revenue sharing agreement will provide First Nations with $3 billion over 25 years from provincial gaming revenue, with every Aboriginal government eligible for between $250,000 and $2 million annually.
> Support payments for foster and adoptive parents, as well as extended family members caring for children, are being increased at a cost of $85 million.
> Social assistance payments are going up by $50 a month, on top of the $100 monthly increase that was previously announced.
> Another 200 modular homes will be built for homeless people, bringing the total across the province to 2,200.
> The Clean B.C. climate plan will see $902 million spent to cut greenhouse gas emissions and offer incentives to help people retrofit their homes and purchase electric vehicles.
> A surplus of $274 million is projected for 2019-20, $287 million in 2020-21 and $585 million in 2021-22.
> The government expects to bring in $59 billion in revenue in 2019-20 and spend $58.3 billion.
> Economic growth is forecast to hit 2.4 % in 2019 and between two and 2.3 % next year.