FREDERICTON (GNB) – Social assistance recipients will be eligible to receive more income beginning Oct. 1 as a result of changes to Social Development programs.

“Our government committed to bring changes to our social assistance programs to leave more money in the hands of low-income New Brunswickers,” said Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch. “These changes represent an annual investment of $10.8 million which will help reduce poverty and remove barriers for clients who are struggling to get back into the workplace.”

Among the changes, 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.

The wage exemption will also be increased. This exemption allows clients to keep a portion of their income assistance benefits while being 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.

“Our clients and stakeholders have told us that increases to the wage exemption will encourage individuals to earn more income to provide for their needs,” said Fitch. “We have listened to these concerns and have taken action to improve our programs.”

In addition, the department will no longer reduce social assistance benefits for clients living with parents or spending less than 25 per cent of their monthly assistance payment on housing. Until now, a shelter deduction had been applied and benefits were reduced.

The changes also include an updated definition of deaf in social assistance programs, as recommended by stakeholders. This will facilitate better assessments for people who are hearing impaired.

Another change authorizes nurse practitioners to sign medical forms for social assistance clients who are applying for disability designation. This will help streamline the application process.

Earlier this year, 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.

“We want to help New Brunswickers thrive, reduce poverty, prepare people for employment where possible, and provide timely support to people with episodic challenges,” said Fitch. “These changes will enable us to serve New Brunswickers more efficiently.”

Social assistance programs in New Brunswick provide financial support to individuals and families who have no other financial resources to meet their basic needs. The programs include the Transitional Assistance Program, which is intended to provide short-term financial assistance while supporting clients along the continuum of employability, and the Extended Benefits Program which 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.

Details of the Social Assistance Reform 2021 are available online.