The Nova Scotia government has announced an increase to the province's child benefit payments that will see families with lower incomes receive up to $350 more a year.

The benefit is a tax-free payment to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18.

Effective Friday, families can now receive up to $1,275 per child annually, depending on their household income and the number of children they have.

“Safe and healthy children, youth and families are vital to building a stronger Nova Scotia,” said Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane in a news release. “This is one more way we are helping families who need it most.”

The Nova Scotia Child Benefit is combined with the federally-funded Canada Child Benefit. It’s received by mail or direct deposit once a month.

As of February 2021, 26,000 families were receiving the benefit, representing 47,068 children.

To be eligible, families with children must have an annual adjusted family net income less than $34,000.

CHANGES MADE TO BENEFIT TWO YEARS AGO

The change comes two years after the program was amended to include more families.

In 2020, the province announced $18 million for the benefit in its 2020-21 budget -- the largest single increase since it was created in1998.

The eligibility family net income amount was also increased from $26,000 to $34,000 at that time.