Welfare in Canada

Last updated: November 2020

This resource is not intended to help individuals identify what government transfers they could be entitled to. Individuals living in 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 other financial support, including:

  • Recurring additional social assistance payments (for example, an annual back-to-school allowance);
  • Federal and territorial child benefits (for households with children);
  • The GST/HST credit and credit supplements; and
  • Territorial tax credits or benefits.

Together, these combine with basic social assistance payments 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.

The table below shows the value and components of welfare incomes for four example household types in 2019. All four households are assumed to be living in Yellowknife. The child in the single parent family is aged two, and the children in the couple household are aged 10 and 15.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$25,420$25,734$28,050$33,543
Additional SA benefits $5,013  
Federal child benefits  $6,568$10,887
Territorial child benefits  $815$1,121
GST/HST credit$438$438$725$876
Territorial tax credits/benefits$52$52$112$224
Total 2019 income$25,910 $31,237 $36,269 $46,652

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Download the data in a table

Total annual welfare incomes in 2019 ranged from $25,910 for a single person considered employable to $46,652 for a couple with two children.

The basic social assistance food allowance was unchanged from 2018. In the Northwest Territories, the amount of social assistance paid for the costs of shelter, fuel, and utilities are based on the actual costs of each recipient household; therefore, the amounts in the table are an estimate of the average costs. The fuel and utilities components are an average of the amount paid to recipients in each of the household types in 2019. The shelter amount is based on average market rents as calculated annually by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Only the single person with a disability received additional social assistance benefits, as shown in the table. The Disability Allowance of $300 per month was increased as of April 1 to $405 per month. The Incidental Allowance for Persons with Disabilities provided $39 per month.

Both households with children received the Canada Child Benefit, which increased with inflation in July 2019 from $541 to $553.25 per month for a child under 6 years of age, and from $457 to $466.83 per month for a child aged 6 to 17.

Both households with children also received the NWT Child Benefit. The single parent received $67.91 per month (the amount provided for one child under the age of six). The couple with two children received less than the maximum as their welfare income in the 2017 and 2018 tax years would have been too high to receive the full NWT Child Benefit amount in 2019. Instead, they received $94.27 per month from January to June, and $92.64 per month from July to December.

All four households received the GST/HST credit, which increased in July 2019 with inflation. The single person considered employable and the single person with a disability both received $287, while the single parent with one child received $574 and the couple with two children received $876. The single person considered employable, the single person with a disability, and the single parent also received $151 through the GST/HST credit supplement.

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. In 2019, one payment of $52 per adult and $60 per child under 18 was made in October.


Changes to welfare incomes

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four example household types have changed over time. The values are in constant 2019 dollars, taking into account the effect of inflation as measured by the national consumer price index.

Download the data in a table

  • The welfare incomes of a single person considered employable and a single person with a disability have followed similar historical patterns. Both declined substantially in 1997, increased gradually until 2008, decreased until 2013, and thereafter saw significant fluctuations.

  • The fluctuations between 2013 and 2019 were the result of changes in the way utility and shelter costs were calculated for the purposes of this report rather than changes to benefit program policy. The increase between 2018 and 2019 was due to both a significant increase in utilities costs and therefore to average amounts paid for those costs, an increase in the maximum shelter amount paid effective October 2019, and the implementation of the NWT Cost of Living Offset, paid in October 2019.

  • In 2019, the welfare income of a single person considered employable was $25,910 and that of a single person with a disability was $31,237, both of which were the highest levels in the time series.

Download the data in a table

  • Households with children saw a decline in welfare incomes in the 1990s, relative stability through the 2000s, a decline in the first several years of the 2010s, and increases between 2014 and 2017 due primarily to changes to federal child benefits. Since 2017, welfare incomes have remained relatively steady.

  • In 2019, a single parent with one child had a welfare income of $36,269, and a couple with two children had a welfare income of $46,652. These incomes were the highest across the time series for both households.

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