Caitlin Cleveland: Income Assistance Improvements

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — June 4, 2024

Check against delivery 

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to update you on crucial improvements to the Northwest Territories Income Assistance program.

In July, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment will introduce a new, targeted Income Assistance program for seniors and persons with disabilities. These anticipated changes, first announced last year, are ready to roll out across the territory next month.

Income Assistance programs provide essential support for residents in financial need. Clients will receive a base benefit amount based on the number of people in their household and the Northern Market Basket Measure of their region to reflect cost of living differences across the NWT. This base benefit covers basic needs like food, clothing, and other daily living activities. Clients will also be eligible for other benefits based on their circumstances, including shelter, utilities, child care, security deposits, flood and fire emergencies, and even education and training benefits.

We have also increased the income exemption amount. The exemption can be taken as a lump sum amount or be split into smaller amounts provided it does not exceed the annual limit. This allows clients to accept some monetary gifts or generate some additional household revenues without a significant impact on their benefits. For example, some people may want to work a few hours per week or participate in paid cultural activities or collect an honoraria from serving on a Board. In addition, Mr. Speaker, this new program will address the barrier of monthly applications. Seniors and persons with disabilities will only need to apply once a year, enabling them to budget for their monthly costs more effectively.

These enhancements are the result of extensive engagement with residents, Indigenous governments, and stakeholders. Residents were clear that we need improved supports for vulnerable residents, better program accessibility, and to do our part to support seniors and Elders to age in place.

Mr. Speaker, these program changes represent an increased investment of $5 million into the Income Assistance Program. Education, Culture and Employment will use a Performance Measurement Plan to ensure proper monitoring and evaluation of these programs.

More importantly, Mr. Speaker, these program changes will result in better services for residents who need it most, while recognizing the incredible value that Elders, seniors, and persons with disabilities bring to our communities. Significant work to reduce barriers, including fewer layers of administration and less paperwork, will also improve the overall experience for clients, care providers, and non-governmental organizations trying to support them. By making this system more efficient, seniors and persons with disabilities will have more time to focus on what matters most, including self-care, training and education, community participation, and time with family.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to delivering programs and services that help residents live their lives with dignity, reach their long-term goals, and benefit from opportunities in the territory. Guided by engagement with hundreds of residents and stakeholders, I am confident that these crucial improvements to the Income Assistance program will improve the quality of life for NWT residents who need it most.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.