Seniors get break

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Barb Sweet
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Not enough on housing, critics say

Seniors in the province are getting a break on their vehicle permits and drivers’ licences.

And for those older than 65 who like to hunt and fish, the benefit is even bigger.

Budget 2012 saves $3.7 million for seniors 65 and older through a 35 per cent cut in driver’s licence and vehicle registration fees, and other licences and fees for such things as hunting, fishing, cutting wood and camping.

In other measures to bolster the pocketbooks of seniors and the poor, the provincial government has said social assistance (income support) recipients will no longer have to tap into Canada Pension Plan benefits at age 60, which saves them $500,000 in income by waiting until age 65 to draw that pension.

The government will also provide another $5.1 million to continue to index income support rates.

And while there were a smattering of other announcements for society’s most vulnerable, including

$5.4 million to build 245 additional affordable housing units, critics say none of it goes far enough to help ease the plight of seniors, low-income earners and those in the middle class who are under pressure from rising food, housing and other cost-of-living increases.

On affordable housing, Liberal Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce said the Tory government isn’t keeping up with demand.

“There are still 1,000 on the wait list for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing,” Joyce said Tuesday.

“Most of that money is already spent.”

Joyce said the wait list will grow and rent subsidies will be eaten up helping fewer people as rents in the private market go up.

“The need gets greater,” he said.

“It’s just a moving target for government on a regular basis.”

NDP housing critic, St. John’s Centre MHA Gerry Rogers was also disappointed.

“It is not enough. There really is nothing new aside from an increase in rental subsidies,” Rogers said.

“We are hearing from people all over the province about the housing crisis … whether it is relating to seniors,  working families, low- to middle-income families or people living in areas where there is resource development.

More people are going to food banks, and there is a growing gap between the have and have nots,” Rogers said.

“It’s distressing to think there is quite a lot of money in reserve — almost $2 billion in cash and assets (cash being held to pay down bonds) tucked in a sock somewhere. … We’re talking about investing so people can become more self-sufficient,” she said.

 

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There were some reductions in fees for seniors in Tuesday’s budget.

Here’s a look at those cuts, as well as spending that affects other vulnerable groups,

such as low-income earners and those finding it tough to afford housing.

Fee reductions for seniors

•   Budget 2012 saves $3.7 million for seniors  65 and over through a 35 per cent cut in driver’s licence and vehicle registration fees, and reductions in other licences and fees for such things as hunting, fishing, cutting wood and

camping

•   Vehicle registration fees are reduced from $126 to $82 for online processing and $140 to $91 for in-person processing

•    Driver’s licence fee is reduced from $100 to $65

•    Big game licences (moose and caribou) reduced from $40 to $26

•    Black bear licences reduced from $27 to $17.55

•    Salmon angling licences reduced from $17 to $11.05

•    Serviced campsite monthly fees reduced from $565 to $367.25. There will also be a reduction in nightly and weekly camping fees, as well as vehicle entry fees at provincial parks  

 

Change to income support rules and rates

•  Social assistance (income support) recipients will no longer have to tap into  Canada Pension Plan benefits at age 60, which saves them income by waiting until they are 65 to draw on that pension

•  $5.1 million to continue to index social assistance rates to help ease the cost of living

 

Housing

• The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. will get $30 million through poverty reduction spending to administer programs for social housing as well as allowing low income earners to maintain their homes or pay their rent, including:

• $1 million in additional funding to expand the rent supplement program

• $1.8 million for the rent-geared-to-income adjustment program, which helps keep more disposable income in the hands of lower-income tenants

• $892,000 in eight housing community centres and 11 neighbourhood centres

• $1 million investment in the Provincial Homelessness Fund;

• $4 million investment for the residential energy efficiency program

• $8 million to the provincial home repair program

• $5.4 million to build 245 additional affordable housing units

 

Dental services

‰    Budget 2012 also puts another $6.7 million in the adult dental program, which provides enhanced diagnostic and therapeutic dental services for vulnerable people, including seniors and social assistance recipients­­

 

Source: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Budget 2012

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Housing

Geographic location: Liberal Bay

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