Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment provides many critical programs and services for some of the territory’s most vulnerable residents through its Income Security programs. Through our ongoing efforts to continually improve these programs, I’d like to share with you today a significant change to the way we will be supporting families with children.
On March 22nd, the federal government announced a new Canada Child Benefit to come into effect in July 2016. This benefit combines a number of previous federal government benefits available to families with children. The new Canada Child Benefit will provide more money for low and modest income families with children.
These changes have implications for our Income Assistance Program. Under the current system the Income Assistance Program considers some of the previous federal children’s benefits as income. We are revising our program so that none of the new Canada Child Benefit is considered as income, to ensure our residents receive the full benefit.
This is extremely good news for our residents, and the steps we are taking will help our most vulnerable residents immensely.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to not counting the Canada Child Benefit and the NWT Child Benefit as income, as of August we will also no longer be considering any child support a parent may receive when calculating income assistance payments. While we continue to believe child support is an important component to ensure both parents contribute to the cost of raising a child, we are no longer requiring income assistance clients to pursue child support as part of the Income Assistance Program.
I am also pleased to announce a joint initiative that is underway with our colleagues at the Department of Finance. The Departments are working together to make enhancements to the NWT Child Benefit that will provide additional financial support to more low and modest income NWT residents with children, and not just those accessing Income Assistance.
As we need to work with the federal government and make changes to the NWT Income Tax Act, we plan to implement these changes to the NWT Child Benefit in 2017.
Mr. Speaker, this is significant. We believe that these improvements to the Income Assistance Program will help to raise children out of poverty and are an investment in the future of the North. For a family with two children that is receiving income assistance, these changes along with the new federal Canada Child Benefit could add up to $614 in increased monthly income.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the work completed in support of NWT children and families. I look forward to updating Members as we continue to work to implement the changes across the Income Assistance Program.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.