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Human Resources, Labour and Employment
Health and Community Services
April 19, 2011

A Clear Path to Opportunity, Self-Reliance and a Prosperous Future
– Budget 2011 Stands Strong Against Poverty

The Provincial Government is continuing its efforts to prevent, reduce, and alleviate poverty with an investment of almost $140 million through Budget 2011. This investment will introduce five new initiatives to the Poverty Reduction Strategy and expand several others, providing new supports and enhancing existing services for the most vulnerable in the province. The initiatives are aimed at achieving four outcomes: improving access to key health services, enhancing housing and community supports, ensuring a better educated population, and enhancing the province’s social safety net.

“Our government has presented a comprehensive series of new initiatives in Budget 2011 to improve the standard of living for people living in low income and provide opportunities for self-reliance,” said the Honourable Darin King, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and lead minister for the Poverty Reduction Strategy. “From the time our province became one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to establish a Poverty Reduction Strategy, advocates have praised our approach as a model for other jurisdictions to follow. These investments will create real change in the lives of vulnerable people throughout our province, and will support our reputation as a leader in the fight against poverty.”

Improving Access to Key Health Services
Budget 2011 includes an investment of $1.5 million through the Department of Health and Community Services to develop an Adult Dental Health Care Program that will significantly increase access to dental services for people who are vulnerable to poverty.

The plan will make diagnostic and therapeutic dental services available once every three years to adults aged 18 or over who live in low income or who are in receipt of Income Support. Budget 2009 had already expanded the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Plan to make assistance available to all children aged 13-17 in low income families. This new initiative will make basic dental services available to people living in low income regardless of age.

It is anticipated that the plan will be ready for implementation before the end of this fiscal year, and will involve an annual investment of $6.1 million when fully operational.

Enhancing Housing and Community Supports
The Provincial Government through Budget 2011 is investing approximately $5 million to enhance housing and community supports.

Through the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, $2.4 million in additional funding will be provided for the Supportive Living Community Partnership Program which brings the total funding available in 2011-12 to $4.8 million. This program provides funding to community-based organizations that help people who are vulnerable to homelessness. The funding is used to help develop housing supports for people experiencing multiple barriers and to promote housing stability.

Further initiatives through the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC) are:

  • $1 million in additional funding per year, over the next two years, to expand the Rent Supplement Program, bringing the total investment to $7 million in 2011-12 and $8 million in 2012-13. This initiative will provide financial help to approximately 375 low income households that are waitlisted for housing units. Community partners Stella Burry Community Services and the Canadian Mental Health Association will be allocated 25 extra rent supplements each to serve persons with complex needs. This initiative represents a doubling of the rent supplement funding since 2007;
  • $1.2 million to construct new public housing in Hopedale. Four public housing units will be constructed for individuals living in low income who require smaller housing units;
  • $200,000 in additional funding for community centres. These centres have been established in eight communities to provide tenants with opportunities to engage in social, educational, recreational, employment and career development, as well as health and wellness programs;
  • $100,000 in additional funding for neighbourhood centres which are tailored to the needs of smaller neighbourhoods; and,
  • $110,000 in additional funding to reduce rent to a flat rate of 25 per cent of income for working tenants, and to expand the educational incentive to families in community-based housing. This initiative will help approximately 120 families who live in community-based housing and it will also help approximately 250 families gain access to an educational incentive that will better position them for employment and self-sufficiency in future.

These initiatives support the strategic goals of the Social Housing Plan – Secure Foundations. The annual Provincial Government investment in the strategy for 2011-12 is $17.5 million.

Ensuring a Better Educated Population
The Provincial Government recognizes there is a wide range of complex issues which can contribute to a young person’s decision to leave school prior to graduation, and is committed to exploring innovative means by which they can continue their education, and succeed in life.

Over $1 million is being provided through the Department of Education for the Positive Actions for Students (PASS) program over the next two years. The program is designed to reach out to disengaged and at-risk youth in an effort to help them remain in school and continue their education. This initiative currently provides support for over 250 students in selected schools across the province.

In addition, the Murphy Centre, located in St. John’s, will receive an additional $115,400 annually from the department to enable 25 more individuals to access its academic programs. The centre provides a vital service to more than 500 individuals, providing a high school credit program, Adult Basic Education, and personal and career services.

Furthermore, Budget 2011 provides an additional $225,000 for the Education Incentive Program delivered by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, bringing the total investment to $625,000. The program was introduced to address low school attendance rates by providing a $50 monthly incentive for families with children in Grades 7-12. There are approximately 4,400 families eligible for this funding.

Enhancing Our Social Safety Net
Budget 2011 includes new investments through the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment to enhance the benefits and services within the Income Support Program. Specifically, these changes are intended to improve the overall well-being of recipients, promote savings and long-term money management, and encourage clients to return to work. The new investments are:

  • $350,000 to eliminate the clawbacks on the income that clients receive from tax returns by changing the classification of income tax refunds from “partially exempt” to “exempt.” This initiative will simultaneously eliminate a disincentive for clients to work and improve earned incomes; and,
  • $37,500 to increase the liquid asset level for all single individuals to $3,000 and to $5,500 for two or more people. By raising the liquid asset levels, clients have more capacity to engage in savings while maintaining their eligibility for ongoing support. This reduces a client’s vulnerability to sudden expenses and also gives greater incentive to work because clients have a greater capacity to save what they earn.

Budget 2011 includes $180,000 from the Department of Finance to harmonize the thresholds of the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit and the National Child Benefit Supplement. It is expected that this initiative will benefit approximately 625 families living with low income.

The Employment Transitions Program will also be expanded to two new locations with $309,600 in new funding from the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment. This will bring the total investment in this program to $579,600 in 2011. It provides for single parents to participate in a nine-week program focusing on career planning, job readiness, job maintenance, and life skills.

Additional Initiatives that Complement the Poverty Reduction Strategy
The Provincial Government is also making a number of investments through Budget 2011 that are complementary to the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Investments through Newfoundland and Labrador Housing are:

  • $4 million to extend the Residential Energy Efficiency Program. This program provides retrofit grants to low income homeowners so they can make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes;
  • $1 million for a new Home Accessibility Modification Program. This program will assist seniors and persons with disabilities who require changes to their homes to make them better suit their needs; and,
  • $500,000 in additional funds, bringing the total annual investment to $1 million for the Rental Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP). This program supports repairing and upgrading substandard, self-contained rental units for households with income less than $32,500. This investment will fund repairs for an additional 40 units per year for three years.

Investments through the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment are:

  • $400,000 to support the first stages of implementation of a Provincial Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. This strategy will contain a number of initiatives developed in response to feedback received through the consultations held in the fall of 2010;
  • $86,700 in increased funding for supported employment. This funding will be used to help supported employment organizations recruit and retain appropriately skilled workers to support persons with disabilities in employment settings; and,
  • $64,900 in increased funding for the provincial Mother Baby Nutrition Supplement Program.

“These new measures have been informed by a combination of research across government departments and input received through our province-wide consultations last fall,” said Minister King. “I am confident they will have a positive and enduring impact, and will put the Provincial Government in an excellent position to launch our next four-year poverty reduction action plan.”

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Media contacts:

Bradley Power
Director of Communications
Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment
709-729-0753, 699-5707
Heather May
Director of Communications
Department of Education
709-729-0048, 697-5061
Luke Joyce
Director of Communications
Department of Finance
709-729-6830, 725-4165
Jennifer Tulk
Director of Communications
Department of Health and Community Services
709-729-1377, 699-6524

2011 04 19             2:40 p.m.

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