VICTORIA, BC; unceded territories - BC Budget 2023 has made commendable investments in affordability and families, while falling short in the area of poverty reduction. The Single Mothers’ Alliance (SMA) welcomes the 10% increase to the BC Family Benefit, an up to $500 annual supplement for single parents, the increased BC Climate Action Tax Credit with annual raises, a significant investment in school food, and a raise in the shelter rate for those accessing income and disability assistance.
Additionally, the budget has allocated $4.2 billion over 3 years towards new investments in housing and introduced an up to $400 annual income-tested renter’s tax credit, set to begin in 2024. The allocation of $1 billion in new funding for mental health and addictions will go far to support families struggling with mental health challenges.
“The majority of families living in poverty in BC are lone parent led families, and we know that 80% of these families are female led. Targeted policies to alleviate their poverty are crucial and long overdue,” says Viveca Ellis, Executive Director of SMA. “Providing an additional $500 per year for lone parents is a welcome and crucial policy development within the BC Family Benefit.” According to government sources, the up to $500 supplement for single parents will be rolled into the BC Family Benefit, distributed monthly, and provided indefinitely.
While raising the shelter rates $125 is a step in the right direction, it is not meaningful enough to address the housing challenges for people on income and disability assistance. Although we are pleased to see an increase to the earnings exemption with $100 per month for those on income assistance and $1200 annually for those on disability assistance, the failure to increase the support allowance given ongoing inflation and the rising cost of living is a missed opportunity to improve life for thousands of BC families living far below the poverty line.
The Single Mothers’ Alliance appreciates the government’s investment of $214 million over three years to enhance and expand school food programs, a significant step towards creating a universal school food system for BC. The funding will target programs that support food insecure children with enrollment-based distribution and flexible spending by school districts to new and existing programs. “Investing in school food programs is crucial to supporting low-income families experiencing food insecurity in BC, and we commend the government for taking this important step towards building a universal school food system for the whole province,” says Leona Brown, SMA Indigenous Coordinator and Advisor. “In addition to supporting low-income families, we emphasize the importance of focusing on reconciliation and decolonizing BC’s food systems, including Indigenous control and access to Indigenous foods, within the newly funded initiative.”
BC’s budget 2023 fails to address the severe underfunding of family law legal aid or make any gains towards building a better system that ensures access to justice for vulnerable and at-risk parents and children in BC. However, we applaud an important focus on funding 10 new Indigenous Justice Centers to open over the next two years providing free and culturally safe legal support for Indigenous Peoples.
The Single Mothers’ Alliance is disappointed not to see investments to accelerate the building of the $10aDay childcare system, which has already proven to impact women’s labour market attachment in BC. Without a fully built system with an affordable and accessible spot for every child in BC, many families are still left behind. Additionally, new investment is required to support publicly provided and overdue before and after-school care for BC’s working families. In spite of an increased focus on climate action, we are yet to see an impactful expansion in public transit access through providing free transit to youth up to age 18 and transit infrastructure throughout the province.
The Single Mothers Alliance is delighted to see the government’s commitment to reproductive health in the provision of free prescription contraception. We advocate for government to continue to build on this important program by providing further free extended health benefits such as glasses, counselling, dental care and other medical and drug costs alongside free contraception.
Overall, the Single Mothers’ Alliance acknowledges the government's positive steps in enhancing affordability and we applaud a new focus on lone parent families. However, more targeted efforts towards reducing poverty and supporting vulnerable families are necessary.
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