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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