Delivered on October 19, 2017
Mr. Speaker, over the past year, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment has continued to make and implement significant changes in its programs for families, seniors and students across the Northwest Territories.
Last year, the federal government announced the new Canada Child Benefit. We revised our Income Assistance Program so that the new federal benefit is not counted as income for our clients. This change ensures all Northwest Territories’ residents with families receive the full benefit of this new federal program.
Also, through a joint initiative with the Department of Finance, this past July we enhanced the Northwest Territories Child Benefit. This Benefit now provides additional financial support to more low to modest income families with children. The NWT Child Benefit now reaches more Northwest Territories families, because we increased the combined income threshold to receive this benefit from $30,000 to $80,000. More than 2,200 families are now benefitting from these changes.
As well, the territory-wide implementation of junior kindergarten has provided opportunities for significant financial benefits to families, and reducing their cost of living. Parents of four-year-old children in junior kindergarten will save up to $12,000 per year.
Mr. Speaker, most recently, we increased support for low-income seniors through the Senior Citizen Supplementary Benefit. Effective September 1, 2017 the monthly amount of the Senior Citizen Supplementary Benefit was increased to $196. Northwest Territories senior citizens who are receiving the Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement automatically receive the NWT Senior Citizen Supplementary Benefit on the same cheque. Approximately 1,200 seniors across the Northwest Territories are receiving this benefit.
Also under the banner of our Income Security programs, I would like to provide Members with an update on the Northern Bonus offered through our Student Financial Assistance program. Since 2015, we have promoted the Northern Bonus to encourage post-secondary students to return or move to the Northwest Territories.
The Northern Bonus is applied to a person’s student loan account up to a maximum of $2,000 per eligible year, with a lifetime maximum of $10,000. Residents who received a Northwest Territories’ student loan and who have lived in the Northwest Territories for twelve consecutive months after ceasing to be a full-time student may apply.
There is no limit on the annual number of Northern Bonus applications for Northwest Territories issued student loans. I am happy to say that we have approved 420 applications since September 2016, totalling $741,383.
We offer a similar incentive to residents who have received student loans from Canada, a province or a territory other than the Northwest Territories. For these students, there is a limit of 100 applications accepted per year. I am pleased to advise that this initiative has been fully subscribed for both 2016 and 2017.
Mr. Speaker, these improved programs are critical to the well-being and independence of residents across the Northwest Territories. These improvements help us reduce poverty, foster healthy families, and develop and grow our workforce. These improvements support the 18th Legislative Assembly’s priorities to reduce the cost of living, foster healthy families, improve the affordability of childcare, develop and grow our workforce, and reduce poverty.
Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.