The Yukon government will not claw back social assistance from families who receive the new federal child benefit, set to roll out next month.
This means that the Canada Child Benefit will not be counted as income for the purposes of calculating social assistance, so Yukon families won’t see their social assistance reduced as a result of the new federal money they receive.
Health and Social Services Minister Mike Nixon made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday, after the Yukon NDP questioned whether or not the government would continue to count a portion of federal child support as income.
Nixon was unavailable for an interview, and the government did not issue a statement.
“We will ensure that every Yukoner receives their full benefit,” Nixon tweeted. “Yukon gov’t remains committed to helping Yukon’s most vulnerable children & families.”
NDP Health and Social Services critic Jan Stick said she was satisfied by the government’s decision.
“What you don’t want to do is give families money and then take it away from them,” she said. “Especially poor families. This is a really good chance to make change and positive change for families with children.”
Currently, families who receive both territorial social assistance and federal child benefits see a portion of the federal money counted as income, thus reducing the social assistance they receive from the territory.
The first payments of the Canada Child Benefit are expected to be sent out July 20. It’s a monthly tax-free payment for families with children under the age of 18, and it will replace three existing child benefits.
The federal government has said nine out of 10 families will receive more in child benefits than they do through the current system, with an average annual increase of nearly $2,300.
“It’s based on income and it is a way and a means of really concretely helping families to overcome some of those disadvantages when you’re poor,” Stick said.
She said the Yukon government still must clarify whether the Canada Child Benefit will be considered income for families who receive the Yukon Child Care Subsidy, or those who live in social housing. Both are income-tested programs.
Tristan Newsome, executive director of the Whitehorse Food Bank, was also pleased by the government’s announcement.
“A lot of people, after you factor in the cost of rent and living up here, have very little money left over for food, especially individuals with multiple children,” he said. “That’ll certainly help them have a little more disposable income.”
In the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2015, Newsome said there’s been a “significant upward trend” in the number of new people accessing the food bank, as well as the number of times pre-existing clients are visiting.
The food bank provides three days’ worth of food – non-perishables such as rice, canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta and macaroni and cheese, as well as toiletries, potatoes, eggs and frozen meat – to an average of 1,300 unique people every month.
Since it opened in 2009, about a third of the people who’ve accessed the food bank have been children.
Back in May, Stick raised the topic of social-assistance clawbacks in the legislature, asking Nixon whether or not the government would classify part of the Canada Child Benefit as income.
“We are taking a closer look at the childcare benefit to assess the potential impact on Yukon Health and Social Services support programs,” Nixon said at the time.
“The federal government has provided a one-year transition period to allow for provinces and territories to amend our necessary legislation and regulations and programs to align with that new CCB benefit program.”
Nearly two weeks ago, the Ontario government announced it would not be clawing back social-assistance payments from families who receive the Canada Child Benefit.
Nunavut also announced earlier this year it would cease the practice.
Contact Rhiannon Russell at