Budget 2020: The lowdown for our sector

Finance Minister Carole James
presents Budget 2020

Budget 2020 was presented Feb. 18 by Finance Minister Carole James. Coming in the third year of a three-year plan, it’s a “no surprises” budget.

Recruitment and retention in the community social services sector was singled out in budget documents. There are no details yet, but the budget notes “new funding to support recruitment and retention for agencies to support overall and long-term strength of the sector.” We don’t yet know how much, when or how, just that the cost of it will come out of the overall contingencies funds. Stay tuned, as we are expecting more details soon. 

BC spends $60 billion a year to run the province, more than a third of which goes to health care. Overall, the government spends $6.1 billion annually on social services, but $4.6 million of that is for income assistance and child welfare.

OK, let’s take a look at the STOB 80 budgets. STOB is an accounting term that means Standard Object of Expenditure, so don’t spend much time puzzling that one out. Just know that STOB 80 appropriations for each ministry is where you find third-party contracting, which is the government money that funds our work!

MCFD has $1.5 billion in STOB 80 appropriations to invest in these categories: Early Childhood Development and Childcare; Services for Children and Youth with Special Needs; Child and Youth Mental Health; Child Safety, Family Support and Children in Care; and Youth Justice Services. While it’s hard to parse the increases in funding by each of those sections, the general lift seems to be between 4-7 per cent, though the ECDC budget overall (not just in STOB 80 funding) sees a lift of 14 per cent. 

In Public Safety/Solicitor General, most of the $506 million in STOB 80 funding goes for policing. However, Victim Services gets $41.8 million, up 15 per cent.

Social Development and Poverty Reduction spends $1.6 billion in third-party contracts, which includes WorkBC and other employment training services. The majority of the SDPR contract spend goes to community living services ($1.14 billion) and the majority of THAT is for residential services. There’s a seven per cent lift in the STOB 80 provisions compared to last year. The lift for Community Living includes $3 million to increase respite rates for caregivers of adults.

In Health, the STOB 80 category is “regional services” and the budget is $605 million. That includes contracts for mental health services to adults, public and preventive health, and home and community care services, all of which covers off a much broader base than just our sector. 

Community Gaming Grants are within Municipal Affairs and Housing, and they will stay the same as last year at $1.7 million. 

A few random notes of things that caught my eye when going through the budget documents:

  •  More than half of the revenue to run the province comes from taxes, and another $10 billion comes from the federal government, with the rest from sources including natural resources, liquor sales, BC Lotteries Corporation and ICBC.
  •  There’s no plan to raise income assistance rates: The lift in that category was a mere 1.7 per cent lift, to $2.5 billion.;
  • Among the strategies to address reconciliation is a commitment to provide $3 billion in gaming revenue to First Nations over the next 25 years; $8 million for new Indigenous justice centres; and revenue sharing of $96 million/year to help First Nations address social and health services, housing and more on reserve. 
  • Affordable housing continues to be a priority, with $396 million for capital expenditures and $958 million for programs. The budget for capital spending is up almost $200 million. There’s  $56 million additional this fiscal year for development of 200 new units of supportive modular housing for people who are homeless/at risk, for a total of 2,400 units in the NDP’s three-year plan.
  • Another $11 million will be invested over 3 years to enhance meal programs in 92 existing shelter/supportive housing projects.
  • Monthly earning exemption for singles on temporary income assistance increases  to $500 a month. Singles on disability can now earn $15,000 a year in exempt earnings.
  • Women workers in BC’s “core-aged workforce” (25-54) earn 15.6 per cent less than men on average. This is largely about more men working in industries with above-average wages, such as construction and manufacturing, and women working in comparatively lower-paying service and retail jobs.

Look for Budget 2021 as the one to watch, as that will be an election budget!