Last Tuesday, I participated in the BC Budget Lock-Up where stakeholders (such as ASPECT) and media get a chance to preview the budget documents, ask questions of public servants, and hear Minister of Finance, Honourable Carole James, present her speech before presenting it in the Legislature. At 8:30, we surrender our phones, sign confidentiality agreements, and gather in a room with other stakeholders and for limited times, media. The process ended at 1:45 when the Minister presents the budget in the Legislature to the public.
Likely you’ve already heard updates about the budget but here are highlights that affect employment service providers and how you deliver services:
BC Access Grant – In addition to interest-free loans announced at last year’s budget, the BC Access Grant provides up to $4,000 per year for post-secondary studies with two-year certifications and associate degrees now eligible. The government has also extended supports to part-time students. Not only is this good news for ASPECT members who offer training, but also for sector workers who want to upgrade their credentials and prepare for leadership.
Childcare Access and Affordability – Last year’s budget promised $1.3 billion in affordable, accessible childcare with 22,000 new licensed daycare spaces. Although there have been capacity-building challenges to meet this target, the 2020 budget promises 5,400 bursaries for Early Child Educators (ECEs) and a wage lift for 11,000 ECEs. These commitments, along with an affordable childcare benefit of up to $14,895 per year and a childcare fee reduction initiative of up to $5,400 per year, means that we could see an influx of women entering the workforce. Of course, ASPECT members are there to assist!
Infrastructure and Job Creation – the government plans to invest $7.4 billion for infrastructure improvements that they estimate will provide 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. This promise, along with supports announced for displaced forestry workers last month, improved eligibility for supports, and BC Budget Announcement of an increased earning exemption for those on income or disability supports, there are several opportunities for ASPECT members to help.
It was my 5th budget lock up, and I’m delighted to see some issues that were not being addressed before on the list. The barriers to employment identified by our members and advocated by ASPECT to the government are addressed in the budget: increased mental health and addictions support, access to safe and affordable daycare, improvements in transportation, and more affordable housing.
As we know with financial plans, the devil is in the details of whether the promises are delivered. Because these issues are mentioned and continue to be mentioned, it gives me a reason to be cautiously optimistic about the future of work.