Alberta, Canada's Welfare System
Updated as of November 2022.
This information is not meant to assist readers in determining whether they qualify for any government assistance programs. If you're an Alberta resident and are in need of financial aid, click here.
In Alberta, families who receive social assistance at the minimum payment level are also eligible for:
- Province-wide supplementary social assistance payments;
- Government assistance for families with children from the federal and provincial governments; and
- Any federal tax breaks or benefits
The sum of a family's welfare payments is comprised of the following: Some households may receive less assistance depending on their other income, while others may receive more assistance due to medical or disability-related costs. In 2021, for instance, a household consisting of a single parent and their single child could receive financial assistance due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Below is a table illustrating the monetary value of the five different types of Alberta households' welfare income packages in the year 2021. It is assumed that all five families reside in Calgary. The two-year-old in the single-parent home is younger than the ten- and fifteen-year-olds in the couple's home. The table below includes, where applicable, payments made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 Welfare Income Components
Due to rounding, some sums may not add up exactly.
Alberta's Income Support program provides slightly higher basic benefits to the unattached single with a disability under the Barriers to Full Employment (BFE) category than those provided to the unattached single who is considered employable. In order to qualify for BFE, applicants must demonstrate that they are extremely unlikely to ever be able to work full-time in the open labor market. People whose health issues make it so they can only work part-time are included in this category.
**Those who qualify for the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) receive a set monthly stipend that is not based on the number of people in their household. Depending on the specifics of the case, recipients and their dependent children may be eligible for additional benefits. In order to qualify for AISH, applicants must provide evidence of a severe disability that substantially limits their ability to earn a living and is likely to be permanent.
In 2021, the annual total of a person's welfare payments varied from ,728 for a single person who is considered employable to $34,574 for a couple with two children. In 2013, the federal government provided $11,195 to a single disabled person who qualified for the federal program Barriers to Full Employment (BFE), and $21,164 to a single disabled person who qualified for the federal program Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH). A total of $24,891 was allotted to the single parent with one child.
Support for those most in need: In 2021, the amount of basic social assistance paid out each month did not change.
Supplemental social services: Additional social assistance benefits were given to only the couple with two children. The annual School Expense Allowance paid out to that family was $103 for the 10 year old and $179 for the 15 year old. In 2021, these sums will not change.
Federal assistance for children: Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payments were made to both families with children, with the amount being $563 in July 2021 after an inflationary adjustment. 75 to $569 For a child under the age of six, the monthly cost is $42, and from $475 66 to $480 A child from 6-17 years old costs $41 per month.
In addition, in January, April, July, and October of this year, the single mother of a two-year-old child received the $300 per child CCB Young Child Supplement that is given to CCB-eligible families with children under the age of six due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aid for children from the provinces: The Alberta Child and Family Benefit (ACFB) was awarded to both family units with minor children. The ACFB, which began making quarterly payments through the Canada Revenue Agency in July 2020, replaced the Alberta Child Benefit and the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit for the full calendar year 2021. The ACFB payment was $110 per month. The average cost of raising a child without a second 25 if the family includes two kids In 2021, these sums will not change.
State and local tax credits: The GST/HST credit was distributed to all five households, and it will rise with inflation in July 2021. The unemployable single, the disabled single receiving BFE benefits, and the disabled single receiving AISH benefits each received $297 per month. basic GST/HST credit of $50, $595 for a single parent with one child, and 7 for a married couple with two children.
The GST/HST credit supplement was also distributed to three additional households. The BFE (blind, female, and economically disadvantaged) single received $15. The AISH-eligible single parent with one child and the disabled single without dependents each received the full $156.
Payments from the federal Climate Action Incentive (CAI) program were made to all five households. The standard Alberta CAI payment was $490 for the single person without dependents who was considered employable, for the single person with a disability who qualified for BFE benefits, and for the single person with a disability who qualified for AISH benefits. For a total of 5, the single parent with one child received the basic amount plus the $245 qualified dependant amount. A total of 1 was given to the family of four because they qualified for the basic amount, the spousal amount of $245, and the qualified dependant amount of $123. In 2021, the CAI was higher than in 2020.
Tax rebates and other provincial perks: In 2021, the sample households were not eligible for any provincial tax credits or benefits.
Compensation for the COVID-19 pandemic
The federal Canada Child Benefit Young Child Supplement of $300 per child, paid in January, April, July, and October 2021, was the only pandemic-related payment available to the example Alberta households with one child aged two or younger that year. The benefits outlined in the previous section, "Components," are already comprised of this sum.
Compensation for the 2021 COVID-19 Pandemic
Five different types of Alberta households are used to illustrate the evolution of total welfare incomes over time. Prices are expressed in constant dollars for the year 2021, not current dollars. Since inflation erodes real dollar values over time, as measured by the national Consumer Price Index, it is important to adjust for inflation using constant dollars.
The welfare income of the after falling in the late 1980s and rising slightly in 1991 Singles without ties are valuable to employers. Until 2005, it fell gradually, then there was some fluctuation. Income from welfare leveled off at roughly ,800 in 2009 and has remained there for the past decade.
The sum reached ,763 in the new year. The federal climate action incentive and COVID-19 pandemic-related payments both contributed to the 2020 increase to $10,349. The loss of federal COVID-19 pandemic payments, combined with the effects of inflation on otherwise unaltered social assistance benefit amounts, cause the 2021 total to drop to ,728.
Increases in recipients' welfare checks since 1989 person who is single and disabled and receives BFE (Barriers to Full Employment) benefits benefits has remained relatively stable, ranging from $10,390 in 2005 to $11,861 in 2020.
The federal climate action incentive and COVID-19 pandemic-related payments account for most of the increase in 2020. The loss of federal COVID-19 pandemic payments and inflation lead to a decrease in compensation in 2021, when it falls to $11,195.
Income from welfare for single, disabled, and living off of Alberta's Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program. data on program benefits is only available from 2006. From 2006 to 2013, their income increased steadily from $16,280 to a peak of $22,423, then declined steadily until 2019 before rising again to a peak of $22,325 in 2020. While the total welfare income of $21,164 in 2021 is less than either of the extremes, it is nearly twice as much as the income of a single disabled person receiving BFE benefits.
The federal climate action incentive and COVID-19 pandemic-related payments again drive the increase in 2020, while the loss of these payments and inflation drive the decrease in 2021.
In 2020, both types of families saw a rise in their welfare payments. Similar downward trends were seen in both between 1990 and 2005, with some variation between 2006 and 2014. Modifications to federal child benefits and the introduction of the Alberta Child Benefit in 2016 are largely responsible for the rise in household incomes since 2015.
After a sizable increase in basic social assistance benefits in 2019, the addition of federal COVID-19 pandemic-related and climate action incentive payments leads to only modest increases in 2020. The reductions in 2021 are the result of inflation and the end of payments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new Canada Child Benefit Young Child Supplement for 2021, which is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, mitigates this reduction for the single parent with one child.
The inflation rate in 2021 was high enough to offset the increase in the nominal value of the single parent with one child's welfare income from 2020.
In 2021, the a parent with only one child received $24,891 in welfare benefits, while the two-parent family I was paid $34,574
Total household welfare income can be evaluated in relation to predetermined poverty and/or low income levels.
There are two common indicators of poverty in Canada:
- Canada's official poverty line, the Market Basket Measure (MBM), defines low-income families as those whose monthly income does not cover the cost of a predetermined "basket" of goods and services.
- Households with a monthly disposable income of less than 75% of the federal poverty line are considered to be living in deep income poverty (MBM-DIP).
Two additional indicators of low income are:
- The Low Income Measure (LIM) is used to identify families whose annual income is significantly lower than the national median (i.e., less than half of the median).
- Households below the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) are those who spend a large percentage of their income on food, clothing, and shelter.
Keep in mind that MBM and LICO thresholds vary by province and community size; Calgary's thresholds are used in the analysis below. The 2021 MBM and LIM thresholds are also projections based on an inflation adjustment to the 2020 thresholds.
It is important to note that our analysis does not take into account the higher cost of living experienced by people with disabilities because none of the current poverty or low-income measures in Canada take this into account.
The methodology provides further explanation of the cutoffs.
You can download a table that compares the welfare income of five different types of Alberta households to each of the four poverty / low-income thresholds.
Calgary's MBM and MBM-DIP thresholds are shown below alongside comparisons to the 2021 welfare incomes of five different types of households.
All five of the illustrative types of Alberta households in 2021 had incomes from welfare that were below the Canada Official Poverty Line. In addition, the MBM-DIP classified four of the households as being in extreme poverty in the year 2021.
The Singles without ties are valuable to employers. had a salary or income below the poverty line Their income was $16,183 lower than the federal poverty line and ,705 lower than the deep poverty threshold. They had 50% of the MBM-DIP income and 38% of the MBM income.
Earnings from single disabled person receiving benefits under the BFE program (Barriers to Full Employment) was slightly higher than the poverty line They had a yearly income of just ,238 (which was $14,715 below the federal poverty threshold) Their income was 58% of the MBM-DIP and 43% of the MBM, respectively.
The Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program beneficiary living alone with a severe disability had the highest income when compared to federal poverty levels. They were the sole representative Alberta household with an income $1,731 above the deep income poverty threshold. Still, they had a yearly income that was $4,747 less than the federal poverty level. That's a 109 percent increase over the MBM-DIP and an 82% increase over the MBM
Disabled people's poverty is underreported because neither the MBM nor the MBM-DIP take into account the extra expenses that come with having a disability.
Two of the single individuals (excluding the AISH recipient) had incomes that were lower than the poverty line, while the incomes of the two families with children were comparable.
Revenue from One-Child-Parent Household was $11,751 below the poverty line and $2,591 below the deep poverty threshold That works out to 91% of the MBM-DIP and 68% of the MBM in terms of income.
Revenue from married couple with twins had an annual income that fell $4,291 short of the poverty line and $17,246 short of the extreme poverty line To put it another way, their income was equivalent to 89% of the MBM-DIP and 67% of the MBM.
Comparing poverty levels
As can be seen in the table provided in the previous sentence, the welfare incomes of these families fell below, and in some cases significantly below, the low-income thresholds.
The group with the lowest income in comparison to the thresholds was the singles with no ties are seen as employable who received 35% of the LIM and 43% of the LICO in total welfare income The single disabled person receiving BFE benefits had an income that was 41% of the LIM and 49% of the LICO, respectively. Most impressive was the someone who is disabled and single and receiving AISH benefits for whom 77% of LIM and 93% of LICO income was achieved
Similar percentages of household income (64 percent of the LIM and 90 percent of the LICO for the latter) were above the poverty threshold for families with children. parent of a single child , and 63% of the LIM and 80% of the LICO for the parent-child pair
Starting in 2002, the graphs below depict the total welfare incomes of the five illustrative household types in Alberta expressed as a percentage of the MBM. Since its inception in 2000, the MBM has undergone two major revisions, in 2008 and 2018. By revising both the basket of goods and the prices at which they are sold, this "rebasing" brings the index up to date so that it more accurately reflects the needs of the modern economy.
For each family, three trendlines are displayed, one for the original MBM, one for the rebased MBM, and one for the welfare income. The poverty line after a rebase is usually higher than it was before.
Canada's Official Poverty Line is set at 100% on the top of the vertical axis. Therefore, the graphs demonstrate how far below the poverty line the families have been relative to their total welfare income over the past two decades. Changes in household poverty within the base years are represented by the trendlines. If the trendline within those time intervals goes up, their poverty level improves, and if it goes down, their poverty level worsens.
The poverty line, defined as 75% of the MBM, is also shown in the graph as a grey line. Total welfare incomes over time and extreme poverty are similarly depicted in the charts.
Be aware that MBM thresholds vary by community size and how each province or territory is governed. Calgary's MBM threshold was used for this analysis. Also, keep in mind that the 2021 MBM thresholds are just projections based on an inflation-adjusted increase to the 2020 thresholds. The section titled "Methodology" contains further explanation.
The sum of all welfare payments received by Singles without ties are valuable to employers. decreased from 36% to 33% of the MBM poverty rate between 2002 and 2008 Their income fell to 31% of the poverty line after the 2008 rebasing, then rose to 39% the following year, and has remained at that level for the past nine years, ending in 2018. Their income dropped to 34% of the poverty line after the 2018 rebasing, then rose to 40% in 2020, and then fell to 38% the following year.
Throughout the entire time series, the total welfare income of the unmarried, working-age adult was consistently below the poverty line, meaning that this family was living in extreme poverty even in 2002. Furthermore, throughout the entire time series, the income of the unmarried, working-age person was below the deep income poverty threshold, so that person would have been living in deep poverty over the past two decades.
The sum of all welfare payments received by single disabled person receiving BFE benefits followed a path not dissimilar to that of a single person who is viewed as employable Their income as a percentage of the MBM was stable between 2002 and 2008, remaining at around 53% to 55% of the poverty line. After the rebasing in 2008, their income dropped to 49%, and it stayed at that level through 2018 when it was 51% of the poverty line. Their income was 43% of the poverty line after the 2018 rebasing. The percentage of people living below the poverty line rose to 46% in 2020 before falling to 43% the following year.
When compared to the income of the single person without a disability who is considered employable, the income of the single person with a disability who is receiving BFE benefits drops nine percentage points below the poverty line by the end of the time series. As a result, their level of poverty has increased dramatically since 2002. They would have been living in deep poverty for the past two decades as their income was consistently below the deep income poverty threshold.
The sum of all welfare payments received by single, disabled, and collecting AISH benefits between the program's inception in 2006 and 2008, averaged around 80% of the poverty line After a brief drop to 75% after the 2008 rebasing, the poverty rate has increased steadily between 2013 and 2018 (from 101% to 108% before dropping again in 2018). The 2018 inflation rebasing put them at 82% of the poverty line. An increase to 86% in 2020 was followed by a drop to 82% the following year.
The average AISH benefit for a single disabled person was virtually unchanged over the course of the time series relative to the poverty line, though there were significant variations between the individual time points. The poverty level of this family is essentially unchanged from 2002. In addition, while their income was above deep income poverty across the time series, with one year slightly above, they still remained poor over the last 20 years.
Both families with children had welfare incomes that, in relation to the poverty line, followed a very similar trend. Between 2002 and 2008, both families saw their incomes remain relatively stable in relation to the poverty line, with a noticeable increase in 2006. Their incomes have increased significantly since 2008 when compared to the poverty line. And from 2018 to 2021, their income increased from a lower base through 2020 before declining in 2021.
The parent who is raising a child alone total welfare income was 59% of the poverty line at the beginning of the series and 68% by the end of the series in 2021.1 As a whole, this is a significant improvement in the family's economic situation. They would have been living in deep poverty for the past two decades, however, because their income was consistently below the deep income poverty threshold throughout the entire time series.
As a whole, recipients of welfare in the two-parent family began at a higher rate of roughly 66% of the poverty line and will end at a lower rate of 67% by 2021. Despite some improvements, especially between 2008 and 2018, this family is still nearly as poor as they were in 2002. They would have been living in deep poverty for the last 20 years, as the couple's income would have been consistently below the deep income poverty threshold, just as it had been for the single parent with one child.
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