featured Poverty

Announced poverty reduction tax credit increase for income assistance recipients mostly bullshit

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Lynn Hartwell, deputy minister at Community Services, told the CBC on Wednesday that “the province is done studying poverty and needs to act.”

Three changes announced by Hartwell were offered as evidence that now is the time that Community Services is getting serious about improving the lives of poor people.

But what the story did not make clear is that in fact the little that the province is doing will benefit very few people. The CBC reporter didn’t ask many questions, and didn’t bother talking to actual people on income assistance for a much needed injection of reality.

In this quick article I take a closer look at the poverty reduction tax credit announcement.

Next week I will tackle the reduction in clawbacks for those lucky enough to earn a bit of extra income, and the long overdue changes in child support payments, which will no longer count as income.

So what about the tax credit raise?    

There will be an increase in the the poverty reduction tax credit amounting to $21 per month, Hartwell says.

Unfortunately you need to meet quite a few criteria before you qualify.

1 – First of all, to qualify Individuals or couples must receive less than $12,000 per year. This alone will disqualify many recipients. Even couples who receive an individual personal allowance of $275 each and a collective shared standard $570 shelter allowance will exceed that limit of $12,000. So do individuals who earn a bit of money, or many individuals who receive a special needs allowance.

2 – If you are applying as a couple only one of you is eligible;

3 – No kids. You can’t have any kids.

4 – And the worst, and most needless barrier, only “Individuals and couples that received income assistance from January to December of the previous year” qualify. That means that if  you started receiving income assistance sometime in January of the prior year you’re out of luck, and you will have to wait another 12 months!  Don’t ask me why. It seems needlessly cruel.

So, maybe you are lucky and will receive that $21/month increase. You’re $21 richer, right?  

Well, not really.

People on income assistance received their last (very tiny) raise in April 2016. Since that raise the cost of living increased by 1.4% from 2016 to 2017, and is expected to increase cumulatively by 2.43% from 2017 to 2018.

That means that if as a single employable individual you were getting the maximum $570 in April 2016, you will need $592.02 by now, just to maintain your buying power in the grocery store.

However, all the raise will give you is $591. In buying power you’ll be poorer than you were in 2016 right after the last raise, by something like a dollar.

That pattern holds for all the so-called employable income assistance recipients currently receiving the maximum rate. They all lose.

And remember, this only applies to those lucky enough to qualify.  

I call bullshit on the deputy minister, and I say, CBC, do your homework!

Note: Cumulative inflationary increases were calculated using the online Canada Inflation Calculator and the Canada Future Inflation Calculator. Future inflation rates were set based on estimates provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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  1. While I applaud the end to clawbacks of child support payments and the keeping more of your working income there is another area I’d like to address. This is the clawback of CPP for seniors between the age of 60 to 65. They force you to take your pension early and then claw it back penny for penny. This means you not only do not see a penny of it now but when you do turn 65 you’re stuck with a reduced amount for the rest of your life. If they’re going to take these other steps then this needs to be part of the equation too. Allow this age group to keep the first $200.00 or $300.00 a month. It’s shameful and disgusting that you receive your pension and GIS at 65 but are expected to live on the pittance they give you for a 5 full years until it kicks in. This is just plain cruelty, there is no other way to describe it. They need to start treating seniors in this age group better and allow them to keep at least a little of their dignity and this small step would help at least a little. It can (in my case anyway) mean the difference between inclusion and sitting at home isolating. I’d love to enjoy some of the upcoming Canada Day celebrations but it’s no fun at all going to these events and watching people enjoy a hamburger, ice cream, or just an ice cold drink when you can’t even afford to buy one. In closing, specifically for the haters, believe me, if I was physically able to go back to work I would. I actually still check the job boards every day even though I know I can’t do any of them. And no, I don’t drink or do drugs so the idea that all people on assistance are just drunks and addicts is very offending.

    1. Yes very sad… I know family that just made it from month to month.. and people over 75 having trouble paying bills and keeping food on there table. Sad… I don’t drink smoke or party… just try to make it day by day

    2. Isn’t is sad that whenever someone who is unable to work due to medical/physical issues and is receiving income assistance posts something online, they have to expect attacks from haters who will have no empathy, even accuse you of faking a disability and resent their hard-earned tax dollars being given to anyone who is not working.

  2. I just read that article and was shaking my head in disgust. Because I receive special needs amounts, my yearly income is just over $13,000 so I don’t quality for the poverty reduction amount so no $21 for me! And those other things only help if you have children or are healthy and able-bodied and working part-time. Not one dollar for those who need more money the most to deal with their health problems and who do not have the option of getting a job or a second job or a better paying job, or job training, or furthering one’s education to get a better job. And anyone who thinks that child tax credit that won’t be clawed back will mean their kids can go to birthday parties and bring a gift or sign up for sports is delusional. Since the parent/s is/are living in abject poverty in the first place, that tiny bit of money will be used to buy food and clothing, assuming they don’t need it for rent and utilities. Utterly clueless about what people in poverty do with any extra cash they may receive!

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