Executive Council
Human Resources, Labour and Employment
Finance
Health and Community Services
Justice
Transportation and Works
March 26, 2009

Standing Strong in the Fight Against Poverty

The Williams Government continues to stand strong and lead the way in its fight against poverty by investing $132.2 million in Budget 2009 to help individuals and families with low incomes. The 18 new significant initiatives announced today will help realize the provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy’s commitment of becoming the jurisdiction with the lowest poverty rates in Canada by 2014.

"Our government made a firm pledge to help support people with low incomes tackle the social and economic challenges that arise from living in poverty," said the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. "The launch of the provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2006 laid the foundation needed to achieve our ultimate goal of alleviating, preventing and reducing poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador. Today, we continue to build on that strong foundation through our commitment to invest in new areas, enhance existing services and strengthen the community level partnerships that are vital to meeting this goal."

For residents living in, or vulnerable to, poverty, Budget 2009 supports measures across four key areas: enabling greater self-reliance, strengthening access to early childhood development, enhancing integrated supports for those most vulnerable to poverty, and building social infrastructure and capacity in communities.

"Through the Poverty Reduction Strategy, this year our government is establishing a series of new supports to best position those experiencing poverty to continue to move forward to reach their potential, to participate fully in their communities, reduce the barriers they face in accessing needed services, and improve their overall quality of life," said the Honourable Susan Sullivan, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

Enabling Self Reliance

As part of a series of tax measures through the Department of Finance, $16 million is being provided in Budget 2009 to support the Poverty Reduction Strategy through targeted low-income tax reduction measures. The low-income tax reduction threshold will be increased from $13,511 to $15,911 for individuals and from $21,825 to $26,625 for families.

An additional $492,300 is also being allotted through the Poverty Reduction Strategy to enable greater self-reliance by removing financial disincentives and barriers that make it difficult for people to work:

  • $350,000 to lower the rental rate for Newfoundland Labrador Housing tenants by reducing the rent geared to income calculation from 30 to 25 per cent of household income. For a working family with a net household income of $1,360 per month, this new calculation will result in a savings of $68 per month. This initiative is an example of putting money right back into the pockets of those in need; and,
  • $142,300 to expand to Labrador the successful Employment Transitions Program for single parents. This program is designed to help single parents in receipt of income support find and secure employment.
  • Improving Access to Early Childhood Development

    A key goal of the Poverty Reduction Strategy is to increase emphasis on early childhood development through improvements to the early learning and child care system, promotion of healthy child development and the strengthening of early intervention services and programs.

    Budget 2009 contains $3 million in measures to further support these important objectives:

  • $1.3 million to increase subsidy rates for children up to 12 years of age in regulated child care spaces. This will reduce or eliminate any surcharge over and above the current subsidy rates to help families access regulated child care services;
  • $1.1 million to increase funding to strengthen existing family resource programs and support the start-up of new programs in Conception Bay South, Lewisporte and Happy Valley-Goose Bay; and,
  • Approximately $600,000 to fund early intervention services for pre-school children at risk of, or who have, a developmental delay or disability. The funding will support new child management specialists and clinical positions to address the current waitlist for these services and improve access for earlier intervention.
  • Enhancing Integrated Supports for Those Most Vulnerable to Poverty

    $11.3 million is provided through Budget 2009 to support a stronger social safety net by integrating community supports to tackle and prevent homelessness, enhancing services available through the justice system and enabling women who have experienced violence to make a successful transition to financial independence:

  • $7.5 million to implement a new financial assessment process for home support. This new process will help eliminate financial inequities when determining the contribution individuals are required to pay;
  • $1.2 million to establish a new Iris Kirby transition house in Carbonear, which will provide short-term residential services as well as programming for women and children in crisis;
  • $1.2 million to establish a Supportive Living Community Partnership Program to support community-based initiatives that enable individuals with complex needs overcome homelessness;
  • $1 million annually to support non-profit organizations through the establishment of a Provincial Homelessness Fund. Administered by Newfoundland Labrador Housing, this fund will complement the Supportive Living Community Partnership Program;
  • $304,000 to support a specialized Family Violence Court, which will provide support for victims of family violence, intervention for offenders and increased awareness of the impacts of violence on the family. Women in violent relationships are often forced to choose between violence and poverty. Establishing a specialized Family Violence Court is an important measure by this government to support and protect women and children who are victims of violence; and,
  • $94,000 to offer women who are victims of family violence enhanced employment readiness services. This funding will also allow for associated staff training.
  • "These Budget 2009 investments further our aim to prevent, reduce and alleviate poverty and speak to the importance this government places on making improvements to programs and services to help vulnerable individuals and families in low income," said Minister Sullivan. "Improving access, integrating supports and building strong communities are critical to our success."

    Building Social Infrastructure and Capacity in Communities

    Budget 2009 contains an additional $13.1 million to focus on building social infrastructure and capacity at the community level targeted at social housing and support for youth at risk of poverty.

    Highlights include:

  • An additional $440,000 is being invested this year in the Community Youth Network (CYN), which includes expansion to Baie Verte Peninsula, Bay of Islands and Bay of Exploits areas of the province and increase core funding for all existing sites. The CYN offers young people at risk of poverty access to constructive programs and services in the areas of academic support, employment, wellness, social, and recreational activities;
  • As previously committed, this year operating grants for each of the eight women's centers in the province will be further increased from $105,000 to $110,250 for a total of $882,000 on an annual basis;
  • $5.6 million for renovations and energy retrofits for social housing as part of a modernization and improvement program – upgrading for windows, siding, doors and roofs;
  • $3 million for social housing units for low-income seniors;
  • $2.65 million for a new, affordable housing program to provide funding to both private and non-profit housing groups to assist them in constructing suitable housing for those with low incomes;
  • $1 million to fund the engineering design and site preparation for new, smaller social housing units to meet the demands of 80 per cent of applicants who require one or two bedroom accommodations. Currently, 80 per cent of units have three or more bedrooms; and,
  • Increased financial support of $400,000 annually for the eight existing community centres operating throughout the province. This increases the total annual commitment to $150,000 per community centre. The community centres provide Newfoundland Labrador Housing tenants with opportunities to engage in social, educational, recreational, employment and career development, and health and wellness programs.
  • The social housing initiatives listed above are administered by Newfoundland Labrador Housing, as directed by the provincial social housing strategy - A Social Housing Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador.

    "Throughout Canada, leading poverty reduction groups and organizations have recognized the leadership shown by Newfoundland and Labrador in taking a long-term, comprehensive approach to addressing poverty," said Premier Williams. "Budget 2009 builds on a strong foundation and sets a strong course forward to a future where everyone can realize the promise of prosperity and have the tools to participate in growing the province."

    - 30 -

    Media contacts:

    Elizabeth Matthews
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Premier
    709-729-3960
    elizabethmatthews@gov.nl.ca 
    Roger Scaplen
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Premier
    709-729-4304, 727-0991
    rogerscaplen@gov.nl.ca 
    Jennifer Collingwood
    Director of Communications
    Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment
    709-729-0753, 690-2498
    jennifercollingwood@gov.nl.ca
    Erin Molloy
    Communications Specialist
    Women’s Policy Office
    709-729-6225, 693-7938
    erinmolloy@gov.nl.ca
    Tansy Mundon
    Director of Communications
    Department of Finance
    709-729-6830, 685-2646
    tansymundon@gov.nl.ca 
    Ronalda Walsh
    Director of Communications
    Department of Health and Community Services
    709-729-1377, 685-1741
    ronaldawalsh@gov.nl.ca
    Ken Morrissey
    Director of Communications
    Department of Justice
    709-729-6985, 685-6612
    kenmorrissey@gov.nl.ca
    David Salter
    Director of Communications
    Department of Transportation and Works
    709-729-3015, 691-3577
    davidsalter@gov.nl.ca
    Jenny Bowring
    Manager, Communications
    Newfoundland Labrador Housing
    709-724-3055
    jmbowring@nlhc.nl.ca
     

     

    BACKGROUNDER

    Highlights of Accomplishments Realized by Poverty Reduction Strategy, 2006-08

  • Provided adults with disabilities living with family the same board and lodging supplement as those living with non-relatives;
  • Expanded eligibility for the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to include low income residents with the addition of the Access Plan (eligible prescription medications) and the Assurance Plan (protection against the financial burden of eligible high cost drugs);
  • Increased access to the Special Child Welfare Allowance Program to help families offset some of the associated costs they incur at home when looking after a child with a developmental and/or physical disability;
  • Expanded the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Plan to enable 13-17 year olds in low-income families to receive the same coverage as children and youth in families that receive income support;
  • Increased outreach supports for youth addiction, prevention and early intervention services;
  • Increased labour market participation for persons with disabilities;
  • Expanded to 30 days the period prescribed for exemption and overlap of benefits as an incentive provided to income support clients who go to work;
  • Enhanced benefits for income support clients for health services such as eye exams, eyeglasses, dentures, and the special diet allowance;
  • Expanded to more areas of the province and increased the overall level of support for the Community Youth Network;
  • Raised basic income support rates by five per cent;
  • Beginning in 2007, indexed income support rates to the Consumer Price Index for a test period of six years;
  • Provided free text books for all students from K-12; and,
  • Increased the instructional grant provided to schools to cover prescribed materials by eliminating fees.
  • 2009 03 26                                                     2:15 p.m.
     


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