Nova Scotia bracing for influx of income assistance applications

Nova Scotia’s income assistance program is preparing for an influx of folks searching for monetary assist now that federal pandemic funding for people has ended.

Figures from the Community Services Department present 40,000 folks had been on the provincial income assistance program in March 2020, however greater than 10,000 left the program in the course of the pandemic. The division says many of these took benefit of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or its successor, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).

With the CRB having ended Oct. 23, many of these persons are anticipated to return again to the province trying for monetary assist.

Brandy Burke, a single mom with two teenage daughters in North Sydney, stated she is frightened in regards to the impact of federal funding on her software for provincial income assistance.

She collected employment insurance coverage all through a lot of the pandemic and solely acquired the CRB in October.

Burke referred to as the province’s centralized telephone system to make a declare for income assistance this month and acquired somewhat assist, however she must ship in her financial institution assertion from final month to find out whether or not she’s going to qualify for ongoing assistance.

Only the final 30 days counted

“It will show the CRB on there, so I probably will not be entitled to any assistance,” Burke stated. “[I was told] that if I collect any more, then I wouldn’t be entitled. I would probably have to live off of my child tax credit again.”

Joy Knight, government director of employment assist and income assistance for the Community Services Department, stated solely income from the earlier 30 days is counted towards qualification for provincial assist.

She stated income assistance is meant to be a final resort, so folks with entry to federal or different sources of funding are anticipated to exhaust these first.

“In cases where that income is significantly higher than what we would provide on income assistance, which may delay eligibility, we do what’s called ‘reasonable disposal,’ and we have a conversation with the applicant,” Knight stated.

“In many cases, those individuals have used those funds to meet their basic needs, and so we wouldn’t consider any delays in income assistance as a result.”

Every declare assessed individually

However, every declare is assessed on a person foundation, she stated, and it is seemingly that somebody who acquired federal funds would qualify for provincial assistance after 30 days.

Burke stated along with the monetary uncertainty she faces with payments persevering with to return in, Nova Scotia’s centralized telephone system for making a declare is being swamped with folks looking for out if they’re eligible.

Fred Tilley, the Liberal MLA for Northside-Westmount, says his workplace is receiving so much of complaints from constituents about delays with the income assistance telephone system. (Nova Scotia Liberal Party)

“You could be waiting on the phone for three hours and nothing, and then to get them to answer and say, ‘Well, you’re too early, call back next week,’ so now you’ve got to do that all next week again until they say, ‘OK, we’ll take your application,'” she stated.

Fred Tilley, the Liberal MLA for Northside-Westmount, stated his workplace is receiving so much of complaints about delays with the telephone system.

“When people are filling out claims, especially for income assistance, it’s a very stressful time, and they really need those answers fairly quickly,” he stated. “Right now, it’s taking multiple weeks in order for them to get into the system.” 

Phones changed in-person claims

People used to have the ability to go into an area Community Services workplace to fill out kinds and get a solution inside days, Tilley stated. But as a result of of the pandemic, the province arrange telephone strains so folks wouldn’t must danger publicity to COVID-19 in individual.

Knight stated the division is effectively conscious of the telephone delays. Call volumes are continuously altering and employees who usually do different duties have sometimes been reallocated to reply telephones.

“It is a challenge and it’s an unfortunate one because obviously when people come through our door, it’s a very difficult time in their lives and we certainly don’t want to be putting any undue stress on individuals, so it’s a top priority for the department to resolve it,” she stated.

Knight stated it’s unknown what number of of the ten,000 individuals who left the provincial program can be returning, or when.

“It’s really hard to predict these things, but we do anticipate that within … the next couple of months, we’ll continue to see more and more clients transition back,” she stated. “We are seeing more and more come through intake now, and are keeping a really close eye on that.”

The Community Services workplace in Sydney has a drop field for income assistance paperwork. Knight says folks can come to the workplace to get assist, however they will nonetheless must make a declare by telephone. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The division has budgeted extra money than ever to cowl income assistance this 12 months, partly as a result of charges have elevated and partly as a result of of the anticipated influx of folks needing assist.

But Knight stated the division just isn’t going again to having folks fill out claims in individual at its places of work.

The new consumption system is extra standardized, she stated, in hopes of avoiding errors. If folks need assistance with the telephone consumption system, they’ll go to an area workplace for assistance.

“We are very committed to this approach to providing a better standard of service to clients,” stated Knight. 

“We do unfortunately know that we have some issues to address to get to that system that we’ve envisioned and currently need to get to.”

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