HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia Government is expanding its Nova Scotia Child Benefit to include more families, as well as increasing the amount eligible families receive.

On Monday, the province announced an $18 million investment for the benefit included in the 2020-21 budget. The province says it is the largest single increase to the benefit since it was created in 1998.

"We're putting more money directly in the hands of families who need it," said Nova Scotia Community Services Minister Kelly Regan in a statement on Monday. "This is another major investment in the children of our province."

In addition to the increase, families with incomes below $34,000 will now be eligible for the benefit. Previously, only families earning $26,000 or less qualified.

The amount will also increase from $625 per year to $925 per year for the first child for all eligible families. Meanwhile, the first monthly payment will be issued on July 20, in combination with the federal government's increase to the Canada Child Benefit payment – families do not need to apply.

The government also notes, for each additional child, families will receive between $412 and $900 annually, depending on income level.

The province says the expanded Nova Scotia Child Benefit will support an additional 6,100 families, as well as 10,000 additional children, for a total of 28,000 families and 49,000 children across Nova Scotia.