Filling thousands of job vacancies and increasing family prosperity are the objectives of a ground-breaking, four-year action plan to move Manitobans from welfare to work, Family Services and Housing Minister Gord Mackintosh announced today.
“Manitobans should always be better off working than on welfare. Yet in getting a job, too often you lose. Benefits are reduced for child allowances, child care, drug, dental and optical coverage, which makes work less attractive,” said Mackintosh. “We must dismantle this welfare wall.”
To make work more worthwhile, Rewarding Work has 10 components in the first year including a new $11-million Manitoba child benefit so that parents will not lose all support for their children when moving off welfare. The families of up to 33,000 children will benefit.
This means a gain for low-income, working families of $420 tax free initially each year for every child, Mackintosh said. Monthly payments will begin in January 2008. For a single parent of three children, working full or part time and making $15,000 or less, this totals $1,260, with partial benefits for parents who earn $15,000 to $20,000.
Although Manitoba has Canada’s second-lowest child-care fees, low-income working families with children will also pay less for child care as a result of two initiatives at a cost of $2.9 million. Fees will be reduced by $104 for each subsidized child per year benefiting the families of more than 11,000 children. As well, more parents will qualify for child-care subsidies due to a 13 per cent increase in eligible income levels.
To forge a stronger expectation that welfare for capable welfare recipients is only help on the way to work, an incentives and skills package will include five initiatives: a $300 job-seekers allowance; a work clothing and bus pass stipend of $100 per month for those working their way off welfare; longer job training when it leads to work; more personalized education and job preparation for youth at risk of dependency and for single parents; and better work incentives to let people keep more of their paycheques to complement the recently-announced federal working income tax benefit.
For persons with disabilities on income assistance, three initiatives comprise an annual $300 increase to enhance job preparation and volunteerism, mental health supports, and doubling of the allowable exempted cash assets of an individual.
“Training and preparation moves an individual from thinking about work to actually participating in employment,” said Shawn Mahoney, general manager of Opportunities for Employment. “Supports that help individuals get jobs and stay in jobs are important.”
These initial investments will cost $27.6 million per year.
Years two to four will include further work incentives such as drug, optical and dental coverage for low-income workers, better opportunities for people with disabilities and more training assistance.
Rewarding Work complements other poverty-fighting measures in Budget 2007 such as the removal of 6,000 low-income Manitobans from the tax rolls and an enhanced property credit of $125 a year which benefits working low-income renters and homeowners. More details on the budget’s child-care and affordable housing initiatives will soon be announced.
Other support for low-income Manitobans includes a minimum wage increase to $8 per hour which went into effect April 1, an increase of 33 per cent since 1999 making it the third highest provincial wage in the country.