Government of New Brunswick
Social Assistance programs in New Brunswick

New Brunswick social assistance programs provide financial support to individuals and families who have no other financial resources to meet their basic needs.

There are two main programs:

  • The Transitional Assistance Program is intended to provide short-term financial assistance while supporting clients along the continuum of employability.
  • The Extended Benefits Program provides support to clients who have been assessed as blind, deaf or disabled by the medical advisory board.

As of September, 26,949 individuals were receiving social assistance in the province: 20,438 under the Transitional Assistance Program and 6,511 under the Extended Benefits Program.

Changes to Social Assistance programs

A reform of the social assistance programs has been undertaken in 2020 to determine how to help individuals become sustainably employed, and how to better support those who are not able to work.

The following changes to social assistance programs represent an annual investment of $10.8 million and are effective Oct. 1, 2021.

Social assistance recipients will no longer have their benefits reduced if they are also receiving child support payments, the Canada-New Brunswick Housing Benefit or compensatory money related to personal injury.

Child support payments:   No longer considering child support payments as income will affect 1700 families on social assistance.   The average child support amount for children of single parents on SA is $207.40.  This change will specifically target one of the highest represented groups of children afflicted by childhood poverty. Child support, paid to single parents by non-custodial parents, will remain in the household to support the child.

Canada-New Brunswick Housing Benefit:   This program aims at helping low-income families with children directly with costs associated with shelter and, indirectly, with costs of food, clothing, child care and transportation. The program provides a short-term benefit depending upon household income, composition and location.  Social assistance recipients will not see their monthly allowance reduced if they also receive Canada-New Brunswick Housing Benefit.

Compensatory awards related to personal injury The compensation will not be considered as income and/or available resources of a unit for the determination of eligibility or continuing eligibility for social assistance. This will allow the compensation received to be used as intended, which is to compensate for pain and suffering endured and to promote healing and well-being.

A wage exemption is an exemption available to income assistance clients that are employed full or part time, and/or self-employed.  The wage exemption allows clients to keep a portion of their income assistance benefits while employed.

Social assistance recipients will now be able to keep up to $500 of income earned each month, plus 50 cents of each additional dollar earned over $500.

Prior to the changes on October 1st, the wage exemption for a single client was $150 monthly, plus 30 cents of each additional dollar earned.  For household units of two or more, the wage exemption was $200 monthly.

Enhancements were made to increase support for individuals who transition to employment. They will now have an increase in the monies they are able to earn, while still accessing partial benefits from the Department. This supports an ability for these individuals to be lifted out of poverty, while also strengthening ties to the labour market, sustaining employment and increasing the labour force in New Brunswick.

The Department of Social Development will no longer reduce social assistance for clients living with parents or spending less than 25 per cent of their monthly assistance payment on housing. Until now, a shelter deduction has been applied and social assistance amount was reduced.

Eliminating shelter deductions will allow individuals to keep more of their social assistance cheque and ultimately allow them to have more resources available to meet their needs.  This will hopefully assist some individuals in finding residences.  This will ensure that we are supporting individuals in their ability to find safe and secure housing and provide more resources to individuals who are experiencing homelessness.

The Department of Social Development will update the definition of deaf in social assistance programs, as recommended stakeholders.This will facilitate better assessments for people who are hearing impaired.

Modernizing the definition of deaf will enable the use of hearing testing methods and thresholds that will provide a more accurate and relevant assessment of complete or nearly complete hearing impairment.

The current definition has been in place since Regulation 95-61 was filed in 1995 as part of the Family Income Security Act.

Nurse practitioners will be authorized to sign medical forms for social assistance clients who are applying for disability designation. This change was requested by stakeholders to help social assistance clients who are living with a disability.

Providing primary health care to New Brunswickers is important to this government.  Allowing nurse practitioners to complete and sign forms for disability applications will streamline the application process for individuals.  This change also aligns with the role that Nurse Practitioners play in our healthcare system.

Earlier this year, as part of the provincial budget, the provincial government announced the indexation of all social assistance rates to inflation. This means that on April 1, each year, social assistance rates will be increased by the percentage change in the New Brunswick Consumer Price Index.

Task force - services and programs for people with disabilities

As part of this social assistance reform, a task force has been established to review disability support services and programs offered by the Department of Social Development, including income support.

The task force includes representatives from primary and allied health care, the Premier’s Council on Disabilities and the New Brunswick Disability Executives Network, as well as individuals and family members who have had first-hand experience with disability support services and programs. The group met today for the first time and is expected to conclude its work by next spring.

It will advise the department on issues related to enhancing support services and co-ordinating delivery of these services. Members will propose a comprehensive model, including recommendations for implementation.