The GNWT’s decision to not extend some Covid-19 relief measures for social and employment programs introduced in March has rankled Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green.
While the government’s extension on Monday of $5.7 million worth of Covid-19 relief measures is good news for businesses and residents, four programs that had almost the same amount of funding ended when their expiry dates passed on June 30.
A government document lists the measures, including $2 million in income assistance for “client demand and current expenses”, $270,000 in income assistance for removing unearned income from earned income calculations, $1,899,000 for a program that paid 33 per cent of child care fees for children in licensed programs for front-line parents and $1.3 million in temporary wage top-ups for licensed child care employees.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Green slammed the government’s decision to end the programs.
“New supports brought in early in the Covid crisis were wiped out this week, leaving children, child care workers, low-wage workers and income assistance clients as badly off as before. People who saw their incomes go up will now see them go back down,” she wrote.
Green went on to explain that the $270,000 exemption on unearned income “enabled people on income support to keep Covid-related payments (mostly from the federal government)” and that it helped alleviate the deep poverty experienced by income assistance recipients.
Maintaining that allowance was among the requests that Green and other members of the Standing Committee on Social Development made to the Department of Education, Culture and Employment in a report on long-term post-pandemic recovery.
But the government ignored that, Green wrote.
The committee also recommended that the NWT keep up the Covid funding for child care to support cleaning costs, employee wage subsidies and food insecurity issues expected to worsen after the pandemic, which the GNWT denied, Green said.
The end of the child care support might affect families still feeling the effects of economic closures in the NWT, said Lyda Fuller, executive director of the YWCA, which runs several child care programs.
“Certainly the loss of (the) child care subsidy may hurt their ability to return to work. We had about a dozen (families) who used that program subsidy that is now discontinued,” she said.
A third recommendation was that the wage top-up program for NWT workers aged over 15 years of age and who earn less than $18 an hour be a permanent one for workers so that people could earn a living wage to cover basic expenses.
The $6.2 million program offering the wage top-ups is scheduled to last from April 1 until July 31.
The living wage for Yellowknife was estimated by Alternatives North to be $23.95 an hour, which it calculated using the Canadian Living Wage Framework, according to a report from the organization last October.
NNSL Media has inquired with the Department of Finance about whether the program would be extended, and the rationale for the discontinuation of the other four programs and is awaiting a response.