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The territorial government provided new details Thursday about its income assistance modifications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek announced a one-time emergency payout of $500 to individuals and $1000 to families to cover costs like food and cleaning supplies amid the pandemic.

The GNWT has announced several changes to income support in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons photo

Anyone who received income assistance at the end of March qualifies for the allowance, it was announced Thursday through the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, under Minister R.J. Simpson. All applicants should receive their respective payments by early April, according to the territorial government.

If a residents are applying to income assistance, they can complete an intake application and contact their local ECE Service Center to schedule an appointment.

The department said it tried to minimize the document requirements for reporting. If residents need to provide more documentation, a client services officer will work with them on the issue.

New clients can contact offices over the phone or by appointment, which the territorial government said will require “minimal verification to ensure they are registered as quickly as possible.”

That will include assessments for basic and enhanced benefits.

Recipients can also exclude gifts and unearned income from their earned income calculations until June 30. That applies to all donations from family, friends, Indigenous governments and community organizations. All income intended for children, like Jordan’s Principle and the Inuit Child First Initiative, is also exempt.

The program is also encouraging participation in “productive choice,” which typically requires recipients to participate in community work or volunteering. There’s now one option: an encouragement to stay home and care for friends and family. It doesn’t require reporting.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, there hasn’t been an increase in income assistance clients over the last two weeks, according to the department.

Support for seniors

Seniors requesting heating subsidies will also receive support.

For those who registered for the seniors home heating subsidy for 2019-2020, that application automatically carries over to this year. That means seniors don’t have to leave home and also follows a modest increase in the subsidy, effective this month.

Whether seniors are registering for the first time or seeking continued support, they can be assisted over the phone.

As to how long the changes to income assistance will last, the GNWT avoided a set deadline.

“The department is making these changes to address the current situation with COVID-19
and will continue to monitor the situation closely in order to ensure our residents are
provided with the long-term supports they require to meet their most basic needs,” it said.

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Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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