Working New Brunswickers can now begin to apply for the one-time payment of $300.

“We put this measure in place because of a group that was missed in the working class that are experiencing every day the cost of energy to travel and groceries,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters Tuesday.

The one-time $300 Workers Benefit payment is eligible for families with a net income below $70,000 over the last tax year, and have earned at least $3,000 in the same time. These details, including the fact residents must apply for the money by the end of June, only emerged in the past week despite the initial announcement being made during his state of the union address.

The premier says it’s disappointing that the story has been spun in a negative light to focus on who wasn’t included in this program, rather than the 250,000 New Brunswickers the province estimates will benefit from the money.

“I found in this job I often have to take a lot of abuse to move forward on files,” says Higgs. “But on this file it was quite surprising. But would I do it again, absolutely.”

Higgs points to the 50 per cent increase in Low-Income Seniors Benefit among other programs as to why other groups, like seniors, weren’t eligible for this payment.

Both leaders of the New Brunswick Liberal Party and Green Party say there has been a great deal of confusion from the public over the past week on the details of who can apply for the cash.

“The whole process to apply, not only is there a process but it is not an easy one,” says New Brunswick Liberal Leader Susan Holt. “It’s clear that the premier just came up with this before the state of the province because he wanted a good news announcement, and now it has blown up in his face.”

Green Party leader David Coon says it’s not about Higgs.

“It’s about all those people who could benefit from a $300 affordability benefit who are not eligible,” he says, noting he spoke with someone Tuesday who was on disability who could really use the extra money.

“Like a lot of people, I think he is feeling like chopped liver.”

Both leaders agree the program should be expanded to other New Brunswickers who are struggling just as much if not more.

Seniors are one of the groups that cannot apply for the money, with the premier citing they have the increased Low-Income Seniors’ Benefit in the coming months.

Cecile Cassista is the executive director for the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights. She says she too has had a number of seniors asking her questions about the benefit, including why they are not eligible.

“It’s very disheartening,” says Cassista about seniors being excluded from the payment. “We nickel and dime our seniors every day. Every day they contribute to society but we tend to forget about them.”

She says seniors have been confused with the fact the initial press release for the benefit mentioned multiple other programs that they are already aware of.

She hopes the premier will re-consider opening the payment to that population.

“I think it’s important for the premier to go back to the drawing board and actually take a serious look at addressing and making sure our seniors received that $300 affordability,” says Cassista. “I think it is extremely important especially in an election year.”

In order to get these payments to New Brunswickers as quickly as possible, Higgs says around 15 people from around the province will move to help process the applications, while around 40 casual workers will be hired by Service New Brunswick for a short period of time to help out.

“They could come in, be hired for a month, and then that’s it they are gone,” says the premier. “This is not 40 new people on staff full-time equivalents, this is 40 people that would be hired maybe for a month on casual basis to get these out quickly rather than take six months or a year to process 250,000 applications.”

People have until June 30 to apply, which can be done online, by mail, or at a Service New Brunswick location. The province has budgeted $75 million for the program.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.