Thousands of Canadian families could miss out on planned bump to child benefit

Feds plan to visit more than 500 Indigenous communities to get more people to take advantage of it

Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos is seen at a youth homelessness organization in Toronto on Monday, June 11, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel)

A planned increase in the value of the Canada Child Benefit will miss just over one-fifth of Indigenous families living on reserves, part of the five per cent of families nationwide who don’t receive the monthly payments.

Federal officials plan to visit more than 500 rural and remote Indigenous communities over the next 11 months to get more people to take advantage of the benefit by simply filing their taxes.

The value of the tax-free benefit is based on income plucked from annual tax returns that were due last month.

Government documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law show that in the first year of a three-year outreach plan, officials visited 613 Indigenous communities, 62 per cent of which Employment and Social Development Canada had not previously visited.

READ MORE: B.C. parents missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in free money

The documents for a meeting last June between officials at ESDC and the Canada Revenue Agency noted challenges including geography, language and weather, but found a positive effect “on service delivery for both clients and staff.”

Social Development Minister Yves Duclos said the numbers of people missing out on the benefit are a concern, despite being an improvement on the system the Canada Child Benefit replaced when it was introduced in July 2016.

Under the previous mix of a universal monthly benefit and assorted tax credits, take-up was about 50 per cent of Indigenous families, Duclos said.

“There is a lot more work to do and it has to do with tax filing, it has to do with reaching out to remote communities, it has to do with working respectfully with Indigenous leaders,” Duclos said in a telephone interview Monday.

“In short, more to do, but I think some progress that we can build on.”

The value of the benefit is increasing this summer for the second year in a row under a plan the Liberals first announced in fall 2017, to peg payments to the rate of inflation, similar to payments from the old-age security and the guaranteed income supplement programs.

The maximum child-benefit payments will be $6,639 for each child up to age five, and up to $5,602 per child aged six to 17 starting on July 20.

There is broad agreement that the child benefit has helped lift some 278,000 children above the official poverty line, with help from good economic conditions, but experts predicted a decline in the effects if the Liberals had waited to index the benefit to the rate of inflation until next year as originally planned.

The concern was that the benefit’s buying power would erode over time as prices increased but benefit payments did not. The parliamentary budget watchdog added another wrinkle in a 2016 report that predicted a decline in the number of families qualifying for the benefit if the payments didn’t adjust to incomes that increased with inflation.

Duclos couldn’t say how many more children may be lifted above the official poverty line with an indexed child benefit. Official poverty numbers for 2019 won’t be available until 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

TRAFFIC: Truck crash halts Highway 1 traffic in Langley

Left lane blocked after truck crashes into median by 264th Street

Three schools gathered the equivalent weight of a Hawaiian monk seal for recycling challenge

Langley’s L’Ecole des Voyageurs earned first place for collecting the most power tools and appliances

PHOTOS: Aldergrove’s first escape room, games lounge comes to life

‘Something new and fun to do:’ Perplexed virtual reality and games lounge pops up downtown

Support pours in for dog abandoned outside Langley home in dire conditions

Baloo, a two-year-old English mastiff now at LAPS making strides towards a full recovery

Fashion Fridays: Tammy’s big makeover

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Aspiring entrepreneurs invited to pitch ideas at Dragons’ Den auditions

Abbotsford and Vancouver the only Lower Mainland try-out locations

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

Most Read