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N.W.T. changes income assistance in Tuktoyaktuk

The Northwest Territories government is overhauling the way people receive income assistance in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., but at least one recipient said she feels insulted by the changes.

The Northwest Territories government is overhauling the way people receive income assistance in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., but at least one recipient said she feels insulted by the changes.

Starting Sept. 1, people on income assistance in Tuktoyaktuk will no longer receive payments in their bank accounts. Instead, they will get credit at local retailers, such as grocery stores.

That means recipients can still buy groceries and pay their bills, but they will have no cash in hand.

"I was really, really angry. I really felt like crying," Clara Bates, a local elder who is on income support, told CBC News.

Bates, who recently attended a government meeting on the changes in Tuktoyaktuk, said she has received just over $1,000 in monthly income support payments for about 2½ years.

"Nobody can tell us how to spend our money," she said.

Jolene Saturnino, director of income security with the N.W.T.'s Education, Culture and Employment Department, said hamlet officials in Tuktoyaktuk had asked for the changes, which she said are a first for her department.

"There is a perception that funds were being spent on alcohol, on gambling," Saturnino said.

"There was a concern within the community that children were going hungry and coming to school hungry."

Bates said she did use her last $20 to play bingo recently, but she says she won $900 and feels insulted by the changes to the program.

"It's like residential school all over again, or authority telling us what to do. We don't like that," she said.

About 117 families receive income assistance in Tuktoyaktuk, an Arctic community of about 900 people, according to government officials.

The government will review the income support changes in Tuktoyaktuk six months after the Sept. 1 launch date.

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