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Child benefit a godsend for poor

One of biggest Liberal campaign promises

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Joy Black: “For me, it will be a big help. We will eat better.”</p>


Joy Black: “For me, it will be a big help. We will eat better.”

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/7/2016 (1360 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Fort Richmond mother Joy Black can’t wait to pick up the mail Wednesday.

It’s the day the federal child benefit rolls out, and it will mean at least a few hundred dollars more for her and her two teenage children.

"For me, it will be a big help," said Black, 54. "We will eat better."

The Canada child benefit was one of the biggest planks of the Liberal election platform last year, with an annual price tag of about $22 billion.

Black left an abusive relationship and has been on social assistance for the last 10 years. Attempts to find work have failed because of the high needs of her 13-year-old son, who has cognitive disabilities. She couldn’t find affordable child care that would take him.

She could get an additional $300 a month or more from the new Canada child benefit.

The single tax-free benefit incorporates the universal child care benefit, the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefits supplement. The Liberals are eliminating credits brought in by the former Conservative government: family income splitting and arts and fitness tax credits for children’s extra-curricular activities. The former is gone as of this year and the latter will be cut in half this year and eliminated in 2017.

Parents who filed 2015 taxes on time and were receiving child benefits, need not apply for the new benefit. It will be sent automatically.

The average increase for each family will be almost $200 a month. While 90 per cent of families are expected to see a boost to their monthly payment under the new Canada child benefit, others won’t.

The maximum benefit — $6,400 a year for children under six and $5,400 a year for children six to 17 years old — will be paid to families with net incomes under $30,000. After that, the payment is reduced as income goes up and depends on the number of children, much like the Canada child tax benefit.

Families with a net income higher than $150,000 are expected to get less than they used to and those with a net income more than $200,000 will likely get nothing.

Terry Duguid, Winnipeg South MP and parliamentary secretary to the minister of families, children and social development, said Manitoba families will see one of the biggest benefits because the province has a higher proportion of poor families. Almost one in three children is in a low-income family.

"This is the most significant social improvement program in a generation," Duguid said.

Duguid said about 21,000 Manitoba children will be lifted out of poverty by the program, reducing the number of kids in the province living below the poverty line by more than 50 per cent.

The Manitoba government told the Free Press this week it will not claw back welfare payments due to the increased benefit. Manitoba was the second-last province to agree not to claw back the benefit. Only Quebec has not revealed what it will do.

Kate Kehler, the executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, said the new benefit is welcome.

"Providing more money to low-income families is always good policy," she said.

Kehler believes the Liberal government is overstating the number of children who will be taken out of poverty by the measure, because the government is using a different measure of low income than anti-poverty groups.

But she is loath to be too critical, acknowledging the benefit will have a positive effect on low-income families.

Black said while the new benefit will be a huge help, it won’t be enough to lift her out of poverty.

"I’m still going to have to rely on the food bank," she said.

But she hopes the new benefit will help her pay down debt and allow her to send her son to camp next summer.



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Updated on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 8:29 PM CDT: Formatting

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