BC Basic Income Panel

Research Papers


BC Income Assistance Trends and Dynamics: Descriptions and Policy Implications

David Green & Jeffrey Hicks (University of British Columbia), Rebecca Warburton (University of Victoria), William Warburton (Elevate Consulting)

This paper documents various features of B.C. Income Assistance (IA), including durations of spells of IA, how durations differ according to recipient case characteristics, and how durations and case characteristics have changed over time from February 1989 through December 2017, based on official B.C. administrative data. The goal of the paper is to relate these patterns to key policy questions, and so it is framed as a set of main patterns, each followed by a list of policy implications.

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Government-Sponsored Training and Employment Programs: Actively Serving Those Near a Basic Income Threshold in British Columbia

Arthur Sweetman (McMaster University)

Current government-sponsored adult employment and training programs for disadvantaged individuals are seen to have positive and economically important rates of return with respect to participant labour market outcomes. A basic income is argued to be a complement, not a substitute, for such programs. This is because most basic income programs are designed to be fundamentally passive, but the argument made here is that high-quality active labour market program (ALMP) management is fundamentally active. Canada has a long tradition of tied benefits associated with learning (e.g., aside from well-established student loans and grants programs, free child care during language training and funds for transportation costs to attend training provided for new government-assisted refugees during language training in addition to the government providing a basic income to such individuals immediately after arrival), and there appears to be good reason for these directed expenditures. Indeed, the federal government is increasing its activity in this area for adult learners with new programs such as Skills Boost. The design of a basic income program should complement such targeted learning initiatives. Delivering programs that foster human capital development will hopefully increase participant productivity so that they earn more than a “basic” income.

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How and When to Pay? Income Assistance (or Basic Income) as a System of Financial Transcations and Services

Jennifer Robson & Robin Shaban (Carleton University)

In this paper, we consider how the provincial Income Assistance (IA) program works as a financial system to pay benefits and provide some guidance on financial matters to clients. In addition to important questions about who qualifies for support and how adequate the support is, we argue that how and when clients receive their income payments is also critically important, particularly if imagining a change to current systems in a transition to a basic income. We draw on administrative data from the province of British Columbia to look at lump-sum adjustments to benefit amounts, friction in transactions, and volatility in monthly income benefit amounts. We also draw on information from the United Kingdom’s experience in consolidating several benefits into the single Universal Credit program, again with a focus on how and when benefits are paid as determinants of the financial well-being of beneficiaries.

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Interactions Between Income and Social Support Programs in B.C.

Gillian Petit & Lindsay M. Tedds (University of Calgary)

This paper examines the system of income and social supports available to B.C. residents and how programs interact with each other. We observe that programs can interact through “eligibility interactions” and “benefit interactions”; that is, one program can affect eligibility for another program and benefits from one program can affect benefits from another program. We look in depth at both the disability tax credit and provincial social assistance and how these programs act as “gateway programs” for other programs: access issues to these gateway programs can limit access to other programs. We also examine the interaction between provincial social assistance and the Rental Assistance Program, both which provide a housing supplement to low-income B.C. residents; however, receipt of one precludes the receipt of the other. For a person deciding between these programs, knowing which program makes a person better off is complicated. Finally, we look at how receipt of the Seniors Bus Pass affects the level of other tax-delivered benefits, and how receiving provincial social assistance benefits affects receipt of the Canada Workers Benefit: for both, the receipt of one benefit reduces the other benefit level raising the question of whether this was intentional. These interaction effects have implications for how reforms should be approached. Reforms to programs are often approached as reforms to individual programs; however, they should be approached with the entire system in mind.

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Overview of System of Income and Social Support Programs in British Columbia

Gillian Petit & Lindsay M. Tedds (University of Calgary)

We provide a systems-based overview of all income and social support programs provided by federal, provincial, and municipal governments that can be accessed by B.C. residents. We find that there are a number of areas for reform: the B.C. system of income and social supports is large and complex with different points of access for different programs and different programs having different eligibility rules. This makes accessing programs difficult. Furthermore, for programs that offer cash transfers, total benefit levels are low comparative to the MBM poverty Threshold, making it difficult for those experiencing poverty to exit poverty. Whether these issues of complexity, access, and benefit levels can be better addressed by a basic income is a question that should be considered. On the other hand, we also observe that, when comparing provincial programs to federal programs, the provincial and federal governments target different demographic groups and use different methods of delivery: the provincial government programs are largely in-kind programs targeted to low-income persons whereas the federal government programs are largely cash transfer programs targeted to families, veterans, and seniors. In-kind programs offered by the provincial government offer valuable supports for purposes and groups not otherwise targeted by federal government programs. Whether these in-kind programs should be replaced by a basic income is also an important question that will need to be considered.

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Programs-Based Overview of Income and Social Support Programs for Working-Age Persons in British Columbia

Gillian Petit & Lindsay M. Tedds (University of Calgary)

In this paper, we conduct a deep-dive into federal and provincial income and support programs available to B.C. residents. We look at individual program requirements and gaps between programs. Focusing on cash transfers, we examine how programs align with basic income principles of simplicity, respect, economic stability, and social inclusion, finding that programs delivered through the tax system are more closely aligned with basic income principles than provincial social assistance; however, social assistance plays a large role in the income and social support system. We also examine the ability of cash transfer programs and programs intended to provide support in a crisis offered in B.C. to address income poverty, both rates and depths, as well as poverty cycles.

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User Experiences of the System: A Qualitative Analysis of the Access Issues Encountered by Clients of the British Columbia Social Assistance System

Sarah Hertz, Robin Gray, & Myles Leslie (University of Calgary)

This paper contributes an analysis of user experiences of the British Columbia Social Assistance System (BCSAS) to current debates on whether a basic income (BI) is a viable policy alternative to either the status quo or incremental changes to the status quo. Grounded in the assumption that all policy change occurs within existing frameworks, we analyze public consultation data gathered during the Government of British Columbia’s (B.C.) province-wide Poverty Reduction Initiative (PRI). From this analysis, we describe a range of front-end and mid-stream barriers to the effective functioning of the BCSAS. The front-end barriers we describe are those that impede users’ access to the system, and the mid-stream barriers are those that prevent the system from achieving its intended goals. By foregrounding users’ experiences, this paper expands on previous studies of accessibility and effectiveness issues in the B.C. system and offers policy recommendations for improvement. As such, the aim of our eight recommendations regarding the front-end and mid-stream barriers is to ensure access to the system while meeting the intended goal of cultivating resilience and self-sufficiency in users.

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