Nunavut MLA takes aim at income support claw-back policies
Many low-income people can’t benefit from national child supplement
Nunavut should take a close look at its income support programs, especially a claw-back rule that prevents recipients from getting anything out of the National Child Benefit Supplement, Pat Angnakak, the MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, said June 10 in the legislative assembly.
The child benefit supplement is a monthly payment that the federal government pays out to eligible low income families, using information they supply in their income tax returns.
In 2013-14, the program paid benefits of $3,654 a year for the first child, $3,397 for the second child, and $3,402 for each additional child.
But in Nunavut, people can be denied income support if their child benefit payments push their incomes over a certain level, Angnakak said.
“As a result, they lose their social assistance benefits,” she said in her statement.
And this means those who face the greatest difficulty coping with Nunavut’s high cost of living are unable to take advantage of the program, Angnakak said.
“The National Child Benefit Supplement was introduced by the federal government to provide additional financial support to low-income families with children across Canada. Many of those families also rely on social assistance to make ends meet,” she said.
Angnakak said she understands that Nunavut uses the clawed-back benefit cash to pay for other programs for low-income people, but she said the territorial government should take a second look at its policy in an upcoming review of its income assistance program.
Meanwhile, Jeannie Ugyuk, the family services minister, said in response to questions from Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak, that she hopes her department will get the income support review done by 2015.
But she also said the new Department of Family Services, recently hived off from the old Department of Health and Social Services, faces staff shortages.
“Since the Department to Family Services is brand new and we are still are in shortage of filling positions within the department, but in 2015 we have an estimate. Our target date is 2015,” she said.
In other questions, Mikkungwak asked Ugyuk about programs the department uses to help income support recipients become more self-reliant.
“I appreciate that the income assistance program is intended as a program of last resort. I also believe that many individuals would prefer not to rely on social assistance to feed their families,” he said.
Ugyuk said the department urges people to go to school or to go hunting.
“They can be returning to school, advancing their education, learning trades, and learning accounting skills, learning career skills, working within the community, or hunting for food,” she said.