The GNWT is now calling for applications for programs requiring funding from the Anti-Poverty Fund for the 2017/2018 year.
Related: GNWT launches anti-poverty website
The fund, worth $500,000 in total, goes towards projects tied to one of five territorial anti-poverty strategy pillars:
- Child and family support
- Healthy living and reaching potential
- Safe and affordable housing
- Sustainable communities
- Integrated continuum of service
Last year, the fund received approximately $200 million worth of requests for funding – 400 times its budget.
Glen Abernethy, the territory’s health minister.
Despite such a sizable difference in supply and demand, Minister of Health and Social Services Glen Abernethy says there are no plans to increase the current fund.
“We are in a fairly tight fiscal situation right now,” Abernethy told Moose FM. “There’s no immediate plans to increase that fund, but at the same time there’s no intention to eliminate that fund as well.”
Abernethy says most people applying use the money to help “leverage other pots of money that might exist”, adding it to their existing funds.
“That was one of the main purposes of the GNWT’s contribution in this area,” he said. “To help leverage other dollars that are out there.”
The amount of funding each project or initiative receives is based on its size, scope and how far it will reach in the community. It also takes into account the number of partners involved.
For 2016/2017, the $500,000 Anti-Poverty Fund was split between 28 different projects, including $40,000 towards Hay River’s Committee for Persons and Disabilities’ employment action program and $13,000 for the Yellowknife Women’s Society’s youth parent outreach project.
Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green has criticized the amount of funding provided by the GNWT, saying it’s far from enough to tackle poverty in the territory.
RELATED: ‘No end in sight for poverty in the NWT,’ says Yellowknife MLA
She says that to build just one NWT Housing Corporation house in Tuktoyaktuk, it costs $500,000, one-year’s worth of total funding from the Anti-Poverty Fund for all projects.
“That level of investment from the government is not going to give us … solutions,” Green said.
“We need some tangible commitment by the government to show us that they are going to invest the resources needed to bring poverty rates down.”
Abernethy says that in addition to the Anti-Poverty Fund, a number of programs are also funded by individual departments within the GNWT to address the territory’s growing issue of poverty.
Over $81 million from the GNWT has gone into Housing Corporation’s housing budget to support individuals struggling with housing.
Abernethy also says over $20 million in 2015 was provided by Education, Culture and Employment services for income assistance in the territory among other services and programs.
“There’s lots of players, there’s lots of files working together,” Abernethy said. He added that the main contributor to growing poverty rates in the NWT has been unemployment.
The NWT Bureau of Statistics says that in November this year, the territory’s unemployment rate was 6.8 per cent. That time last year, it was at 10.4 per cent.
Statistically speaking, unemployment has improved from 2015, but Abernethy says it’s still an issue he wants to see the government tackle.
“ITI and the government need to be engaged as well,” he said. “Working with communities finding ways to employ local people which in and of itself would help us calm that poverty.”
Green believes that the territory needs to invest more in long-term solutions to housing issues and food security while still balancing providing short-term solutions like shelters and food banks until the more sustainable options are opened.
“It’s a matter of doing both things,” Green said. “It’s going to require more of an investment than the government currently provides.”
Applications for funding close Jan. 31.
According to the GNWT’s website, there is no maximum or minimum funding limit that individual projects can ask for. However, final decisions on funding are made by Abernethy himself.