Tununiq MLA Karen Nutarak said she’s heard concerns from a number of income assistance clients about being required to submit their bank statements in order to qualify for benefits.
In the Legislative Assembly on March 15, Nutarak asked Family Services Minister Margaret Nakashuk to explain why the policy exists.
Nakashuk said clients sign an agreement to provide all necessary documents when they apply for assistance to the program, which she described as “a last resort for people who don’t have income coming in.”
Among the terms is that clients must not have additional financial supports coming in through employment or other means, which is why income support workers review bank statements, the minister stated.
Noting that close to 40 per cent of Nunavut’s population relies on the benefits every year, Nutarak said some people manage to get a little extra money to feed their family or buy necessary items through the sale of a piece or artwork or through a gift from a relative or friend. She asked Nakashuk why income support is reduced “when they find small ways to get ahead in their financial situation?”
The minister pointed out that the threshold for “additional money” from outside sources has been raised to $700 per month from the previous $300 monthly limit without affecting income assistance payments, depending on the number of people in a household.
She added that the department is “trying to review” and has made some changes to an aspect of the program known as productive choices. Those options currently include career activities such as upgrading academics, career support, employment, training, harvesting, community work and volunteer activities and parenting children under five years of age. There are also wellness activities such as alcohol and drug counselling, mental health counselling, family support, medical assistance and community justice.