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N.B. advocates question why those on social assistance, disability or seniors not included in $300 affordability measure

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The New Brunswick government has released more details on what it will require to access a $300 affordability measure Premier Blaine Higgs announced last month.

Higgs made the announcement during the annual State of the Province speech on Jan. 25, saying the measure was targeting “low-income, working New Brunswickers.”

On Tuesday, the province outlined who qualifies, specifying it’s only for families with a net income of $70,000 or less, and “had family working income of $3,000 or more for that taxation year.”

That doesn’t sit well with some poverty and disability advocates, who say that means those on social assistance or disability, as well as most seniors won’t qualify.

“Because I get long-term disability, it's not considered a salary, so I would not qualify for that,” said Shelley Petit, chair of the N.B. Coalition of Persons with Disabilities.

Petit says $300 isn’t a lot of money to many people, but to a person on social assistance, disability or a senior, it could mean paying a power bill, or not having to worry about groceries for a month.

“So the most vulnerable in the province are not getting this money, and it's just an election ploy to buy votes, and I'm telling the Premier the people of New Brunswick are smarter than that,” she said.

In a statement, a government spokesperson said low-income seniors and those on social assistance have already received supplements to address affordability.

The low-income seniors’ benefit will also increase from $400 to $600 in April.

The N.B. Liberal opposition questions why not include the most vulnerable populations right now – and are also asking why the application process is so cumbersome.

“There are tools to deliver help directly. Partner with CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) and put money into people's hands like other provinces have done. We've seen it across the country, provinces have delivered more help than New Brunswick is offering, to more people because they know that someone who finds themselves in poverty or in homelessness is a complicated challenge for the government to address, and they could help, right now,” said Liberal leader Susan Holt.

People have until June 30 to apply, and they can do so online, by mail or at a Service New Brunswick location, beginning Feb. 27.

The province has budgeted $75 million for the measure, stating it should help around 250,000 families.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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