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Poverty report tabled in BC legislature

Strategy has exceeded provincial targets, says Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons
WORKING WELL: BC minister of social development and poverty reduction Nicholas Simons has indicated that efforts to reduce poverty in BC have exceeded targets.

Increasing supports and services in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic helped some of BC’s most vulnerable people, as outlined in the 2020 provincial annual report on poverty reduction.

Tabled in the  on October 4, TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy 2020 Annual Report, details cross-government initiatives to reduce poverty and address the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations. According to a media release, TogetherBC is the province’s first poverty reduction strategy and aims to reduce BC’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and the child poverty rate by 50 per cent by 2024.

“After the first year of implementing our poverty reduction strategy, we’ve managed to exceed our targets,” stated Nicholas Simons, minister of social development and poverty reduction, and Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA. “At the same time, it is important that we recognize that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be fully understood for some time, but it is clear that our cross-government approach to better connect people with the services they need, and building a culture of empathy and understanding, has been working well.”

The release stated that to support people through the first year of the pandemic, government introduced a suite of supports and services, including: further increasing the minimum wage for low-income earners; freezing rents and halting evictions; providing emergency funding for child-care providers; providing funding for emergency food bank delivery options; providing a temporary COVID-19 crisis supplement for people on income or disability assistance and low-income seniors, and allowing people on income or disability assistance to keep federal and provincial COVID-19 support payments without being penalized; working with local governments to move hundreds of people living in encampments in Vancouver and Victoria into safe, indoor accommodations; and improving internet access in rural and Indigenous communities.

The release stated that according to the most recent Statistics Canada data from 2019, BC met its targets by reducing the overall poverty rate by 29.4 per cent and the child poverty rate by 57.6 per cent from 2016.

While the 2020 annual report outlines the province’s efforts to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on BC’s vulnerable and marginalized populations, it does not fully reflect the effects of the pandemic on poverty in BC, which will be addressed in future reports, the release stated.