Welfare in Canada
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Last updated: December 2021
This resource is not intended to help individuals identify what government transfers they could be entitled to. Individuals living in the Northwest Territories seeking financial assistance should visit this page.
Components of welfare incomes
In the Northwest Territories, households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for:
- Recurring additional social assistance payments from the territory;
- Federal and territorial child benefits (for households with children); and
- Federal and territorial tax credits or benefits.
Together, these combine to form a household’s total welfare income. Households may receive less if they have income from other sources, or more if they have special health- or disability-related needs. In 2020, these households were also eligible for benefits introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The table below shows the value of the welfare income components of the four example household types in the Northwest Territories in 2020. All four households are assumed to be living in Yellowknife. The child in the single parent family is two years old and the children in the couple household are ten and 15. COVID-19 pandemic-related payments are included in the basic social assistance, child benefit, and tax credit/benefits amounts, where applicable.
Components of welfare incomes, 2020
Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.
Total annual welfare incomes in 2020 ranged from $27,171 for the unattached single considered employable to $50,126 for the couple with two children. The income of the unattached single with a disability was $33,077 and that of the single parent with one child was $38,320.
Basic social assistance: The food allowance remained unchanged in 2020. In the Northwest Territories, the amounts of benefits paid for the costs of shelter, fuel, and utilities are based on the actual costs of each recipient household; therefore, the figures in the table are estimates. The shelter amount is based on average market rents, as calculated annually by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The fuel and utilities components are an average of the amount paid to recipients in each of the household types in 2020. The clothing allowance is an enhanced benefit of $79 per year for a one-adult household or $110 for the couple household.
All four households received a one-time COVID-19 pandemic emergency allowance of $500 for unattached single households or $1,000 for households of more than one person, paid in March 2020. In addition, all four households received the Furnishing Allowance due to a policy decision to enroll all clients in the "Wellness: Self-Care" Productive Choice activity option in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The unattached singles received $175, the single parent received $323, and the couple with two children received $567.
Additional social assistance: Only the unattached single with a disability received additional social assistance benefits, in the form of both the Disability Allowance of $405 per month and the Incidental Allowance for Persons with Disabilities of $39 per month.
Federal child benefits: Both households with children received the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), which increased with inflation in July 2020 from $553.25 to $563.75 per month for a child under six years of age and from $466.83 to $475.67 per month for a child aged six to 17. In addition, they received a one-time COVID-19 pandemic-related CCB top-up payment of $300 per child in May 2020.
Territorial child benefits: Both households with children also received the NWT Child Benefit. The single parent with one child received the maximum amount of $67.91 per month (the amount provided for one child under the age of six). The couple with two children received $92.64 per month from January to June, and $90.89 per month from July to December.
Federal tax credits / benefits: All four households received the GST/HST credit, which increased in July 2020 with inflation. The unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability both received $293, the single parent with one child received $586, and the couple with two children received $894. The unattached single considered employable, the unattached single with a disability, and the single parent with one child also received $154 through the GST/HST credit supplement.
A one-time COVID-19 pandemic-related GST/HST credit top-up payment, delivered in April 2020, provided the $383 to the unattached single considered employable, $443 to the unattached single with a disability, $733 to the single parent with one child, and $886 to the couple with two children.
Territorial tax credits / benefits: All four households received the Northwest Territories Cost of Living Offset, which was introduced in 2019 to help offset the cost of the NWT carbon tax. Households received their second payment for the 2019/20 year in April 2020 in the amounts of $52 per adult and $60 per child under 18. The first regular quarterly payments for the 2020/2021 year were made in July and October in the amounts of $39 for an individual ($156 per year) and $45 per child ($180 per year).
COVID-19 pandemic-related payments
Pandemic-related payments available to the example households in the Northwest Territories came from territorial programs (i.e., the emergency allowance for households receiving social assistance and enrollment in the “Wellness: Self-Care” Productive Choice) and federal programs (i.e., the GST/HST credit and Canada Child Benefit), with slightly more provided through the territory. In total, the unattached single considered employable received an additional $1,058 related to the pandemic, the unattached single with a disability received $1,118, the single parent with one child received $2,326, and the couple with two children received $3,053. These amounts are included in, and are not in addition to, the benefits described in the Components section above.
COVID-19 pandemic-related payments, 2020
Changes to welfare incomes
The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four example household types in the Northwest Territories have changed over time. Note that the values are in 2020 constant dollars, and not in nominal dollars. This takes into account the effect of inflation as measured by the national consumer price index given that inflation reduces real dollar values over time.
A nearly identical pattern is evident in the welfare incomes of the unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability over the time series. After a substantial decline in 1997, both saw a gradual increase until 2008, a slight decrease until 2013, and significant fluctuations thereafter.
Fluctuations between 2013 and 2019 resulted from changes in the way utility and shelter costs were calculated for the purposes of this report rather than changes to benefit program policy. Increases since then were due to three main changes: a significant increase in utilities costs in the Northwest Territories and, therefore, to average amounts paid for those costs; a 2019 increase in maximum shelter amounts; and the implementation of the NWT Cost of Living Offset. Further increases in 2020 were due to COVID-19 pandemic-related payments from both provincial and federal sources.
In 2020, the welfare income of the unattached single considered employable was $27,171 and that of the unattached single with a disability was $33,077, both of which were the highest levels across the time series.
After a decline in welfare incomes through the 1990s, households with children saw relative stability with some fluctuations until 2013/2014 and increases thereafter. The major drop in 2007 was primarily the result of a significant decline in the level of basic social assistance benefits in that year. Changes in federal child benefits were the major contributor to the recent increases, as were the addition of COVID-19 pandemic-related payments in 2020 from both provincial and federal sources.
In 2020, the single parent with one child had a welfare income of $38,320, while the couple with two children had a welfare income of $50,126. These were the highest values across the time series for both households.