New benefits called 'game changers' for ending child poverty

New child tax benefits from the provincial and federal governments are “game changers” for ending child poverty, says a report from the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

'Non-taxable child benefits are the most effective way to reduce poverty,' new report says

According to a new report from the Edmonton Social Planning Council, 34,220 Edmonton children lived in poverty in 2014. (CBC)

New child tax benefits from the provincial and federal governments are cited as "game changers" for ending child poverty in a new report released Thursday by the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton suggests the Alberta Child Benefit and the Canada Child Benefit will have a direct impact on families.

"Non-taxable child benefits are the most effective way to reduce poverty because they put money directly into the pockets of low-income families," the report states.

The report says that in 2014, 17.8 per cent of children in Edmonton — 34,220 kids ages 0 to 17 — lived in low-income families.

A family with two children making $30,000 a year will receive an additional $4,300 a year from the Canada Child Benefit and the Alberta Child Benefit.

The Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit also helps, the report says. The credit is given to low-income working families. The maximum benefit for a working family with two children is $1,457 a year.

The benefits mean the living wage calculated by the Edmonton Social Planning Council is lower for lone- and two-parent families in 2016 compared to the previous year.

For a family with two working parents and two children, the hourly wage needs to be $16.69 for them to live modestly,  a drop of 67 cents an hour from 2015.

The living wage for a single parent with one child is $18.15 an hour in 2016,  $1.18 an hour less than in 2015.

For single people, the living wage went up by 25 cents an hour to $17.81 an hour. The report cites the higher cost of cell phone plans as the main reason for the increase.

Within the city of Edmonton, 12.1 per cent of people are low-income earners.

More low-income workers are women 

The report also paints a picture of the the number of low-income jobs in Edmonton.

Three-quarters of those jobs are in the service sector and 17.8 per cent of employed people make below $15 an hour.

The minimum wage in Alberta is $12.20 an hour. It is earned by 7.9 per cent of workers in metro Edmonton.

Sixty-two per cent of workers making less than $15 an hour are women.

The report uses tax-filer data from 2014, the most recent information available,  to provide a look at low-income families and singles in the city.

Report author John Kolkman, a research associate with the social planning council, said the data is still helpful, even though it doesn't take into account the impact of of the 2015 economic downturn.

"It does give us a bit of a benchmark to measure the impact of the downturn as newer poverty data becomes available," he said.

The report notes carbon tax rebates given to low-income earners should be more than what the the majority of them paid in the new levy which came into effect Jan. 1. That's due to the fact many low-income earners take public transport and live in smaller homes.

The report released Thursday is an update to a previous Profile of Poverty in Edmonton released by the social planning council in January 2015.