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Edmonton, AB, Canada / 630 CHED Edmonton News

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March 28, 2015 12:38 am

Albertans are going to have to get used to paying a health-care levy, again, but not everyone.

John Kolkman, the Research Coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council which focuses on topics related to low-income and poverty, says he wasn’t really expecting to see that low and modest income earners will not have to pay the new levy in Alberta’s latest budget.

“I was a bit surprised, in so far as the old health care premiums tax that they had previously was a very regressive tax where you paid exactly the same amount of money regardless of the amount of income that you made,” explained Kolkman. “So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Premier Prentice, when he said that it was going to be based on an ability to pay, that he was correct in that assessment.”

You’ll only be paying the new health-care levy if your yearly taxable income is above the $50,000 mark.

Personal income tax is suddenly more progressive as well, with modestly higher rates of tax for high income Albertans.

Kolkman says the tax change was one of the more positive features of the budget.

“That being said, certainly high income Albertans are still paying, by far, the lowest personal income taxes in the country. So he could have gone a bit further in that area, but restoring some progressivity to the personal income tax system was a positive move.”

Individual taxable incomes above $100,000 per year will be taxed at 11.5 percent, compared to the existing 10 percent flat rate. Income above $250,000 will be taxed at 12 percent.

The new budget also includes a couple of measures that will provide a refundable tax benefit to low income, working Albertans with children.

Kolkman feels it’s a positive move, but says they’re concerned the measures are not expected to be implemented for another 15 months.

“We’re also disappointed that families on income support, such as Alberta Works — who are not able to work — are not going to be receiving any of the benefit. We would of preferred a benefit that did not discriminate based on your source of income. That’s more likely the federal child tax benefits.”

Kolkman points out that during the 2012 election campaign, the PCs promised to end child poverty within five years, but he says not much has been done to keep the promise.

And the funding for the rent supplement program is being reduced from $64.8 million this year to $63.3 million next year.

Kolkman says with rents as high as they are, and a continued low vacancy rate, the news is a bit disappointing.

“Assisting people in paying their rents is actually a more cost effective way of keeping people housed then trying to re-house them after they become homeless because they can’t afford their accommodation.”

Kolkman says six years in, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that the goal of ending chronic homelessness will be achieved by 2019.

Some of the progress made during the first four years has been undone, with both Edmonton and Calgary seeing increases in homeless numbers in the past two years. (td)

 

Government expects it will make a 'real difference' for low-income families

CBC News Posted: Mar 27, 2015 2:41 PM MT Last Updated: Mar 27, 2015 4:41 PM MT

Low-income families will keep more money in their pocket thanks to a new tax credit introduced in the provincial budget this week.

The Alberta Working Family Supplement applies to families earning less than $41,000.

And while the initiative is well received by groups such as the Edmonton social planning council, which advocates for low-income families, it’s being criticized for not coming into effect right away.

“Budgets are about making choices and obviously they’ve decided to put some things ahead of their commitment to increasing this particular benefit,” said John Kolkman with the planning council.

During an announcement at the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre in Edmonton, Premier Jim Prentice assured working families that his government will live up to its promise.

“You have my word that what we are bringing forward is the plan,” said Prentice

Starting July 2016, working families with one child will be eligible for an annual benefit of $1,100, an additional $550 will be provided for each of the next three children. The Alberta government expects the tax credit will help about 75,000 families.

"In spite of being employed and working very hard, all too often there's not enough money for working families, families that have children in particular and this has been a special concern of mine," Prentice said Friday.

"We believe that this will make a real difference for parents, for the children, and in particular for hard-pressed families."

Kolkman supports the tax credit for the families that he works with but says the government should have gone further.

“The benefit would have been better had it also been made available to low-income families on income support where the parents can’t work, through no fault of their own,” he said.  

The government also introduced payments to an existing benefit for low-income families called the Alberta Family Employment credit. That initiative also becomes available in 2016.

BY ANDREA SANDS, EDMONTON JOURNAL MARCH 27, 2015

EDMONTON - The government will spend slightly more than $1 million to open three new Parent Link Centres in three communities, including Edmonton, Minister of Human Services Heather Klimchuk said during a news conference Friday at the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre.

Klimchuk and Premier Jim Prentice visited the centre at 9516 114thj Ave., which serves more than 600 families through numerous programs, including early childhood development programs, fathers’ groups, financial literacy, home visits and other family supports.

The Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre will run the Parent Link Centre that opens in Edmonton’s core this fall. Centres will also open in Innisfail and Sylvan Lake, Klimchuk said. They offer important support for families, she said.

“Some parents feel isolated. They need to reach out. They need to talk to another parent about what’s happening and to make sure their children are raised in a positive, loving environment, and sometimes you don’t know where to turn to,” Klimchuk said.

“The premier and my colleagues and I are so committed to supporting early childhood development, and Parent Link Centres are such an important part.”

Mom of six Bobbi Felzien is currently living in a hotel and makes daily visits with her children to the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre. Her kids are in some of the centre’s early learning programs. Felzien has access to the centre’s phone and computer. Norwood staff is helping her family find housing after a six-month struggle.

“They’re like a family and that’s what some people need,” said Felzien, 34, whose children range in age from five months to 15 years old. “All the resources here are amazing.”

During the news conference, Prentice also outlined plans to introduce a new refundable tax credit starting July 1, 2016, which is called the Alberta Working Family Supplement and was announced in Thursday’s provincial budget. He also touted enhancements to the existing Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, which also kick in July 1, 2016.

“Taken together, these two programs are among the most generous in Canada, relative to families, working families, who are struggling to make ends meet,” Prentice said.

John Kolkman, research co-ordinator with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, said after the news conference those tax benefits will help low-income families, but should come into effect more quickly.

Also, the supports will go to working families, but not to people who receive supports such as Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped who perhaps can’t work, Kolkman said. “We’ve been pushing for a child tax benefit that did not discriminate based on source of income, similar to federal child tax benefits.”

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Government expects it will make a 'real difference' for low-income families

CBC News Posted: Mar 27, 2015 2:41 PM MT Last Updated: Mar 27, 2015 4:41 PM MT

Low-income families will keep more money in their pocket thanks to a new tax credit introduced in the provincial budget this week.

The Alberta Working Family Supplement applies to families earning less than $41,000.

And while the initiative is well received by groups such as the Edmonton social planning council, which advocates for low-income families, it’s being criticized for not coming into effect right away.

“Budgets are about making choices and obviously they’ve decided to put some things ahead of their commitment to increasing this particular benefit,” said John Kolkman with the planning council.

During an announcement at the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre in Edmonton, Premier Jim Prentice assured working families that his government will live up to its promise.

“You have my word that what we are bringing forward is the plan,” said Prentice

Starting July 2016, working families with one child will be eligible for an annual benefit of $1,100, an additional $550 will be provided for each of the next three children. The Alberta government expects the tax credit will help about 75,000 families.

"In spite of being employed and working very hard, all too often there's not enough money for working families, families that have children in particular and this has been a special concern of mine," Prentice said Friday.

"We believe that this will make a real difference for parents, for the children, and in particular for hard-pressed families."

Kolkman supports the tax credit for the families that he works with but says the government should have gone further.

“The benefit would have been better had it also been made available to low-income families on income support where the parents can’t work, through no fault of their own,” he said.  

The government also introduced payments to an existing benefit for low-income families called the Alberta Family Employment credit. That initiative also becomes available in 2016.

Edmonton Sun

By Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun
First posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 02:29 PM MST

Poverty trends in Edmonton have improved in recent years, but worries are surfacing that the fallout from sinking oil prices will undo those gains.

"The first thing that comes to my mind is jobs, the loss of jobs, but also issues around rents going up and the ability for people to find affordable housing when they've lost their job," said Susan Morrissey, executive director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council (SPC), following the release of a report profiling poverty in Edmonton.

Among other statistics, the profile shows one in eight residents are living in poverty.

Breaking the totals down, one in five children experience poverty and for children with aboriginal background, the numbers are even more stark, with almost 44 per cent of kids under six living in low-income homes.

According to John Kolkman, research co-ordinator for the SPC, the trend has been improving in recent years.

"There's been a slow reduction in the poverty rate since 2000 through 2012," Kolkman said. "We've also had a really strong economy."

Kolkman explained the recent numbers only go to 2012, meaning recent events could change that trend for the worse.

"The downturn in oil prices is probably going to have both negative and positive effects," he said.

That's what worries Morrissey.

"We're concerned there's going to be cuts to programs," she said.

She said if social agencies start having to make cuts those cuts will be felt immediately by people on the cusp of poverty and the social cost will skyrocket.

"It's a lot easier and a lot less costly to be able to deal with them before they get there."

Mayor Don Iveson feels more drastic change needs to happen at the federal and provincial levels in order to turn the tables for the city's poor, calling the numbers "unacceptable."

"A society as wealthy as ours, regardless of oil prices, can include more people and ultimately all people," Iveson said.

In his speech, he pointed to a personal belief that the tax system has to be changed. When asked to expand on that, he agreed a general sales tax is likely to hurt all people, poor and wealthy alike.

"It seems to me that when we moved to the flat tax we became more regressive," he said. "I know many high-income people who would be prepared to pay a little bit more by going back to a progressive income tax."

He said a mix of solutions is needed to solve the issue of income inequality.

As for corporate tax, he said it could potentially keep companies from investing in the city, pointing instead to a progressive income tax and and a fuel tax to support provincial coffers.

Recommendations from the city's task force on poverty elimination are expected to be published in the fall.

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