The federal government is considering clawing back a new provincial grant program aimed at providing financial assistance to grandparents in P.E.I. who are caring for their grandchildren – something Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy says is "unacceptable."
Grandparents who have been trying to figure out the ins and outs of the new grandparents and care providers program became alarmed in recent days to learn the federal government might claw back their Canada Child Benefit payments if they receive the province’s new monthly $700 per child payment, which is being offered to some P.E.I. grandparents and caregivers who are caring for children that are unable to live with their parents.
Mundy confirmed this week the feds are indeed considering clawing back this benefit.
“We find this unacceptable,” she said.
“These families are entitled to, and deserve, the support of both levels of government. Any decision to reduce benefits not only demonstrates a lack of compassion, it is counter-intuitive to our commitment to support families and children to ensure they receive the greatest opportunities to succeed.”
Mundy says she will be reaching out to Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos, National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier and P.E.I.’s four Liberal MPs to tell them the P.E.I. government “rejects the idea of clawing back any benefits.”
“I’ve got grandmothers calling me crying saying, ‘I don’t know what to do.’”
Don Avery, who has been a vocal advocate for seniors and grandparents looking for assistance in caring for their young relatives, says he has been fielding a number of irate calls from Island caregivers over this and other confusion surrounding this program.
Initially, after the government announcement this program, grandparent caregivers believed they all would be eligible to receive the new benefit. They were upset to find out later it only was only to those with open at first to Child Protection Services (CPS) cases.
Government has said the program has now been expanded to include all grandparents.
But grandparents and caregivers are now concerned about the possible claw back by the feds and about whether the new benefit will be considered taxable income.
Avery says he believes the province was so concerned about a “good news announcement” when they rolled out this program in November, it did not communicate properly with caregivers, which has caused widespread confusion and concern.
“Someone needs to explain how this program is going to work before they make any more announcements,” Avery said.
Some seniors on pension or fixed incomes could end up owing money at the end of the year if this new benefit is taxed as income, he said. As a result, many Island grandparents are saying they don’t want anything to do with this new provincial benefit program.
“I’ve got grandmothers calling me crying saying, ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Avery said.
The group of grandparent advocates are meeting Wednesday night to discuss their concerns and decide on their next steps.
Mundy says she hopes the federal government will not financially penalize grandparents who qualify for the P.E.I. program.
“I trust the federal government will realize our shared priority of helping these particular families and immediately suspend any discussions on reducing the benefits they are entitled to and allow the province to administer the program as intended.
The province says there are currently 88 applications being reviewed and 18 caregivers receiving payments. All payments for this program are retroactive to Dec. 1, 2017.