The New Brunswick government has announced $20 million in financial relief for low-income families, individuals and seniors as costs of living rise in the province and across the country.
The fund was named the Emergency Fuel and Food Benefit, to reflect skyrocketing prices of gas and groceries hit in the past month, the province announced in a morning release.
Premier Blaine Higgs said Wednesday the current economic situation is having “a severe impact” on residents.
“It is essential for the provincial government to provide the appropriate relief for those in need,” he said in a statement.
It will offer a one-time payment of $225 to individuals or $450 to families who are already receive low income or housing benefits through Social Development.
The province said more than 75,000 New Brunswickers are eligible.
An additional $1 million is being budgeted for food banks through Food Depot Alimentaire, the province said in the release. The funding is to help food banks meet increased demand, and it’s the second million-dollar donation of this type since March.
Inflated prices bringing in extra tax revenue
Higgs later told reporters Wednesday that from looking at consumption patterns of gasoline, demand has not fallen despite higher prices, so the province estimates its bringing in an extra $20 to $30 million in tax revenue because of inflated prices.
He also said government costs have increased by about $100 or $130 million because of higher gas prices.
According to Higgs, the benefit will go to those receiving disability assistance as well.
He’s also not ruling out further programs for those who aren’t covered by the Emergency Fuel and Food Benefit, but needs to wait until the province sees its HST revenue projections from the federal government in the fall.
“For us, it was trying to have a model that we could react quickly and hit those that are most vulnerable right now,” Higgs said. “Whether something more will happen in the fall, I guess we will continue to monitor the impact on our citizens.”
Liberal interim leader Roger Melanson said Wednesday the program doesn’t go far enough.
The Liberals proposed a 10 cent per litre reduction in the provincial gas tax.
“It would have had a significant benefit for people that are working, but are still struggling to meet daily needs in terms of paying for groceries and providing for their families,” Melanson said.
“It is individuals who are already receiving help from the government, now they’ll be getting a bit more help temporarily — I think it’s important, but the average workers in New Brunswick are getting zero help from this today.”
Green Party leader David Coon called the announcement “very disappointing.”
Coon said he wants to see HST rebates boosted for those making under $25,000, social assistance rates boosted by $100 a month, and to move up the planned minimum wage hike to $13.75 an hour in October.
“That’s what people in need need,” Coon said. “More money in their pocket every month in the face of the rising cost of living, not this one-time-only small grant of money. It’s not going to resolve the difficulty.”