Income assistance rates to rise in Nova Scotia, premier says

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Income assistance rates will be rising in Nova Scotia, according to Premier Iain Rankin. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Income assistance rates will be rising in Nova Scotia, according to Premier Iain Rankin. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

Nova Scotia's spring budget will include a bump to income assistance rates, says Premier Iain Rankin.

Rankin dropped the teaser Thursday night in a live Facebook video, where he was fielding questions and feedback from the public about the upcoming budget.

He was asked twice how he intends to help seniors who are struggling with the cost of living.

"We're really trying to keep the cost of living low in Nova Scotia," he said, and pointed to a rebate program for home energy efficiency upgrades.

"Those who are impacted the most will have help through a boost through income assistance, and there will be more programs that we can look at to help seniors across the province as well."

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood hosted a live online forum with Premier Iain Rankin Thursday night where he fielded questions about the provincial budget, which will be released this spring.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood hosted a live online forum with Premier Iain Rankin Thursday night where he fielded questions about the provincial budget, which will be released this spring.(Facebook)

Rankin also said provincial pharmacare "will need continued, increased investment," and he said he recognizes more needs to be done to ensure housing affordability.

"There's so much more we can do — those are just a few things," he said.

Increase needs to be 'very generous,' says legal aid worker

The last increase to income assistance garnered a lukewarm reception from advocates and recipients because the new allowances remained far below the poverty line drawn by Ottawa.

Since the last bump, which was at the start of 2020, the monthly allowance for a single adult has started at $508.

The highest monthly allowance is for a couple with at least one dependent. That rate is $1,193.

Rankin did not say how much income assistance rates would rise.

A spokesperson for the Department of Community Services, which operates the income assistance program, said more details will be available at budget time. The budget will likely be tabled before the end of the month.

Fiona Traynor, a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid, said she is hopeful, but without knowing the dollars and cents, she said, "It's hard to to celebrate any of this information, yet."

Fiona Traynor is a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid.
Fiona Traynor is a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid.(CBC)

The increase would have to be "very generous" in order to impress her, she said.

Many of Traynor's clients who are on income assistance struggle to afford necessities, she said.

"People living on income assistance are not able to afford healthy food," she said. "They're not able to afford rent. They're not able to afford basically anything that other people in our community take for granted on a daily basis, such as having a telephone or having access to Internet service."

Traynor pointed to a recent hike in income assistance rates in British Columbia as an example of the type of "substantive" change she hopes to see in Nova Scotia.

Starting in April, income and disability assistance in B.C. is slated to rise by $175 per household, per month.

For comparison, when Nova Scotia increased rates last year, most households saw their monthly allowances rise by between $10 and $40.

According to the Department of Community Services, more than 38,000 individuals from about 25,000 households in Nova Scotia receive income assistance.

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