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Income assistance applicants drop by more than 2,000 since CERB; minister says it not a ‘straight cut off’

From February to August, there were 2,049 fewer heads of Nunavut households seeking or receiving income assistance payments, according to the Department of Family Services.

The territorial government is trying to ensure the impacts of CERB tax repayments are not going to impact Nunavummiut too greatly, says David Akeeagok, acting minister of Family Services.
NNSL file photo

The NWT and Yukon allow income assistance clients to continue to receive their benefits while also receiving the $2,000 per month Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main pointed out in the legislative assembly on Wednesday.

Acting Family Services Minister David Akeeagok replied, “For some cases where our Nunavummiut that are earning part-time income and need assistance through the income assistance, those would qualify under CERB too. I just wanted to point that out to the members that it is not just a straight cut off if they get CERB, they cannot earn the income assistance.”

Akeeagok added that residents receiving CERB should call income assistance workers to determine whether they’re still eligible for GN assistance because there are various formulas and individual needs may be unique.

Main asked about GN correspondence indicating that the territorial government has expressed its concerns about fairness and the impact of repayment requirements for CERB clients.

Akeeagok replied that because CERB is taxable, the federal government will be looking for repayment come income tax season. Ottawa can claw back other federal benefits such as child benefits and the Goods and Services Tax rebate from citizens to ensure payment, he noted.

“We are just worried, as I am worried, with Nunavummiut that that might happen,” said Akeeagok. “There is a lot of work that the department, along with myself and our Premier, are doing to try and see how that impact can be lessened if there was to be any repayments.”