Thousands of Canadian families could miss out on planned bump to child benefit

Feds plan to visit more than 500 Indigenous communities to get more people to take advantage of it

Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos is seen at a youth homelessness organization in Toronto on Monday, June 11, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel)

A planned increase in the value of the Canada Child Benefit will miss just over one-fifth of Indigenous families living on reserves, part of the five per cent of families nationwide who don’t receive the monthly payments.

Federal officials plan to visit more than 500 rural and remote Indigenous communities over the next 11 months to get more people to take advantage of the benefit by simply filing their taxes.

The value of the tax-free benefit is based on income plucked from annual tax returns that were due last month.

Government documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law show that in the first year of a three-year outreach plan, officials visited 613 Indigenous communities, 62 per cent of which Employment and Social Development Canada had not previously visited.

READ MORE: B.C. parents missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in free money

The documents for a meeting last June between officials at ESDC and the Canada Revenue Agency noted challenges including geography, language and weather, but found a positive effect “on service delivery for both clients and staff.”

Social Development Minister Yves Duclos said the numbers of people missing out on the benefit are a concern, despite being an improvement on the system the Canada Child Benefit replaced when it was introduced in July 2016.

Under the previous mix of a universal monthly benefit and assorted tax credits, take-up was about 50 per cent of Indigenous families, Duclos said.

“There is a lot more work to do and it has to do with tax filing, it has to do with reaching out to remote communities, it has to do with working respectfully with Indigenous leaders,” Duclos said in a telephone interview Monday.

“In short, more to do, but I think some progress that we can build on.”

The value of the benefit is increasing this summer for the second year in a row under a plan the Liberals first announced in fall 2017, to peg payments to the rate of inflation, similar to payments from the old-age security and the guaranteed income supplement programs.

The maximum child-benefit payments will be $6,639 for each child up to age five, and up to $5,602 per child aged six to 17 starting on July 20.

There is broad agreement that the child benefit has helped lift some 278,000 children above the official poverty line, with help from good economic conditions, but experts predicted a decline in the effects if the Liberals had waited to index the benefit to the rate of inflation until next year as originally planned.

The concern was that the benefit’s buying power would erode over time as prices increased but benefit payments did not. The parliamentary budget watchdog added another wrinkle in a 2016 report that predicted a decline in the number of families qualifying for the benefit if the payments didn’t adjust to incomes that increased with inflation.

Duclos couldn’t say how many more children may be lifted above the official poverty line with an indexed child benefit. Official poverty numbers for 2019 won’t be available until 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Only 13 new COVID-19 cases confirmed by Alberta gov’t Saturday

There’s currently only two active cases in province’s central zone

Central Alberta naturalists fear pristine headwaters will be contaminated by coal mine

Chutes of the Ram constitute one of Earth’s ‘most beautiful’ spots

Every Albertan eligible for COVID-19 testing

22 new cases confirmed on Friday

Lacombe Hospital Auxiliary sews 200 scrub bags for local healthcare workers

Bags were delivered to the hospital, the Community Care Centre and Royal Oak Dementia Care

Anna Maria’s Cafe opens at LMC after renovation hiatus

Operator: Guests are noticing the brightness of the space

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The Lacombe Express covers the stories that matter to you and to our community

PODCAST: The Expert tackles the return of sports

Cam Moon, Joe Whitbread, Byron Hackett and Todd Vaughan discuss how sports can come back

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

International student worry about pandemic as decisions loom on travel to Canada

Zohra Shahbuddin is weighing whether to enrol this fall or put off coming to Canada until next year

How finding a ministerial home for CMHC caused ‘madness’ in November

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. manages the national housing strategy

‘What do we do now?’ Labour dispute at Regina refinery nears 6 months

About 700 unionized workers were locked out by refinery owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., Dec. 5

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

N.S. police received warnings in 2011 about man who would become mass killer

N.S. police received warnings in 2011 about man who would become mass killer

Trudeau acknowledges ‘anti-black racism’ in U.S., with ‘work to do in Canada’

Trudeau acknowledges ‘anti-black racism’ in U.S., with ‘work to do in Canada’

Most Read