Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to sweeten work earnings for income-assistance recipients

Income-assistance recipients will be able to keep more of what they earn if they work, starting in 2019-20, a top Nova Scotia bureaucrat says.

Planned changes would see recipients who work keep $250, up from the current $150

Nova Scotia's income-assistance recipients will be able to keep more of what they earn if they work, starting in 2019-20. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

A top Nova Scotia bureaucrat says income-assistance recipients will be able to keep more of what they earn if they work, starting in 2019-20.

Lynn Hartwell, the deputy minister of community services, told the legislature's public accounts committee Wednesday that under planned changes, recipients who work would be allowed to keep $250 rather than just $150.

She said the amount they can keep beyond that threshold would also increase from 30 per cent to 75 per cent for anything earned between $250 and $500.

"The average amount of wages that they earn is $500. So once this wage incentive goes in for these folks it will be several hundred dollars in their pocket immediately … so the ability to have that in the economy — it's going to have a significant effect."

Community and anti-poverty groups called for immediate changes to income assistance in December, including an increase to basic rates. At the time, the groups said people who live in poverty have immediate needs, with the cost of such things as food and shelter continuing to increase.

But Hartwell said there can't be an immediate change to the overall income assistance system because of the time it is taking to revamp policy and computer systems and to train employees. She said a planned five per cent increase in basic income support rates is planned for 2019-20.

"I am satisfied, sometimes reluctantly satisfied, that we can only move as fast the system will allow us to move in terms of people's readiness for change," she told the committee.

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