Mass unemployment and the shutdown of entire sectors of B.C.’s economy due to COVID-19 has put a renewed interest on the idea of a government-supplied basic income, says the province’s social development minister.
Shane Simpson said it’s particularly opportune that a panel of three academics hired by the province in 2018 to study the issue is preparing to deliver its interim report this summer, while B.C. is slowly reopening its economy from the coronavirus. The pandemic experience will be included in the study on basic income and add a new context to the report, said Simpson.
“I think it’s pretty timely to be doing this now,” Simpson said Tuesday. “I spoke to (the panel members) when COVID happened. I did go back and say obviously this changes the look somewhat. And they said they have no problem fitting that in, to say, ‘Let’s look at it based on what we’re learning coming out of COVID.’ So that will be part of the conversation on what they deal with. They’ll reflect on what we’ve learned and are going through right now.”
The idea of a basic income is for government to provide a minimum living stipend — either in the form of a universal payment to everyone or money targeted to specific groups. It’s different than current social-assistance programs, because it doesn’t necessarily require a person to be unemployed or come with rules on how the money should be spent.
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