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P.E.I.'s social assistance rates to rise

Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy speaks with Regina Younker, committee member of the Poverty Reduction Advisory Council, at the Faith Bible Church in Charlottetown on Thursday following an announcement regarding changes to the province’s social assistance benefits.
Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy speaks with Regina Younker, committee member of the Poverty Reduction Advisory Council, at the Faith Bible Church in Charlottetown on Thursday following an announcement regarding changes to the province’s social assistance benefits. - Katie Smith

Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy announced changes to social assistance rates, which she says will help low-income Islanders overcome barriers associated with poverty.

The changes will allow those on social assistance to earn more income without having their benefits reduced, and will exempt child support payments from being clawed back.

The changes will also extend medical, dental and optical benefits by up to 24 months after individuals begin a new job, and will also initiate a new assistance fund to allow people to buy new clothes for job interviews.

The new rates will be:

  • $250 a month plus 30 per cent of any additional income for single Individuals
  • $400 a month plus 30 per cent of additional income for couples
  • $500 a month plus 30 per cent of additional income for persons with disabilities or couples

A new toll-free assistance line will also be established, specifically geared to questions about social assistance.

Mundy spoke about the changes in the legislature on Thursday afternoon.

“Our government recognizes that social assistance must have a stronger focus on helping people overcome barriers, gain self-confidence, and become more independent,” Mundy said.

The changes are part of the P.E.I. government’s poverty reduction action plan, first promised in the government’s 2015 throne speech.

According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, 22 per cent of children and 16 per cent of adults in Prince Edward Island are living in poverty.

The 2018 report by the P.E.I. auditor general reviewed current government policy around social assistance. The report chastised the current government for irregular submissions of information related to social assistance rates.

“Information on specific rates and exemptions was only provided when changes were requested by the department,” auditor general Jane MacAdam said in her report.

The new income exemptions will allow single individuals to draw $250 per month, as well 30 per cent of any additional income. Prior to this change, the amount was $75 and 10 per cent of additional income.

Couples will be able to draw $400, as well as 30 per cent of additional income, while individuals or couples with disabilities will draw $500 per month and 30 per cent of additional income. Couples were previously limited to $400 per month, while persons with disabilities were limited to $500 per month. Both couples and persons with a disability previously were allowed to keep 10 per cent of their additional income.

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