Social Assistance In Alberta

Social Assistance In Alberta

Written by Mark Gregorski
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated October 5, 2021

Alberta has historically been regarded as a powerhouse province, offering an abundance of employment opportunities, a high standard of living, and some of the highest wages in the country. It’s definitely the place to be if you’re looking to get ahead while the economy’s booming.

However, Alberta’s economy is based primarily on energy, a sector that experiences dramatic downturns during recessions, resulting in massive unemployment. In addition to economic contractions, Alberta’s economy has been marred in the last decade by rising deficits, low oil prices, decreased investment in the fossil fuel industry, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During these turbulent periods, many people experience financial hardship and face difficulty paying for basic living expenses. Hit especially hard are those who have a disability, lack employable skills, or earn a low income

To prevent people from falling deep into poverty, the Alberta government has created numerous social assistance programs, one of which is Income Support.

Alberta Social Assistance Program

Alberta’s goal with the Income Support program is to provide financial aid to individuals and families struggling to pay for basic expenses, such as food and shelter.

The amount of aid you can qualify for depends on your needs, your ability to secure and maintain employment, and the size of your family. 

The Income Support program also offers additional financial aid to help pay for childcare, special diets, emergencies, school expenses, work-related expenses, and more.

How Much Can You Get Through Alberta’s Social Assistance Program?

The bulk of financial assistance received under Income Support falls under a category called core benefits, which encompasses most basic living expenses. Core benefits are comprised of the following:

  • Core essential: Food, clothing, household needs, personal needs, telephone installation, laundry, transportation, and moves within Alberta.
  • Core shelter (varies with the type of shelter): Rent, mortgage, utilities (excluding electricity in social housing), heating fuel, municipal taxes, insurance, condo fees, lot rental, and damage deposit.
  • Actual electricity costs: For individuals living in social housing. Costs cannot exceed private housing rates.

The amount you can expect to receive is determined by three factors: the number of members in your household, your living arrangement, and your foreseeable employment status (based on the likelihood of you finding a job). Your total benefit amount after accounting for these factors is called total care benefits.

Below is a table that summarizes the total care benefits under different scenarios.

Total Care Benefits For Expected To Work (ETW)

Household CompositionLiving With RelativesSocial HousingPrivate Home
Single Adult$518$535$745
Single Adult, 1 child$718$827$1,173
2 children$818$975$1,293
3 children$918$1,132$1,414
4 children$1,018$1,292$1,534
5 children$1,118$1,452$1,655
6 children$1,218$1,611$1,775
Couple, no children$773$863$1,116
Couple, 1 child$973$1,132$1,458
2 children$1,073$1,287$1,578
3 children$1,173$1,447$1,688
4 children$1,273$1,607$1,809
5 children$1,373$1,766$1,929
6 children$1,473$1,925$2,049
Each add’l child add$100$100$100
Each child 18-19 add$205$205$205

Total Care Benefits for Barriers to Full Employment (BFE)

Household CompositionLiving With RelativesSocial HousingPrivate Home
Single Adult$639$656$866
Single Adult, 1 child$839$948$1,294
2 children$939$1,096$1,414
3 children$1,039$1,253$1,535
4 children$1,139$1,413$1,655
5 children$1,239$1,573$1,776
6 children$1,339$1,732$1,896
Couple, no children$954$1,044$1,297
Couple, 1 child$1,154$1,313$1,639
2 children$1,254$1,468$1,759
3 children$1,354$1,628$1,869
4 children$1,454$1,788$1,990
5 children$1,554$1,947$2,110
6 children$1,654$2,106$2,230
Each add’l child add$100$100$100
Each child 18-19 add$205$205$205

In addition to the core benefits, you may be eligible for various supplementary benefits:

Childcare

This benefit intends to help cover the cost of childcare programs, such as babysitting, while you’re working, searching for work, or attending a training program. Here is how much you can get:

  • Private babysitting – Maximum of $5.00 per hour for the first child, plus $2.00 per hour for each additional child, up to a maximum of $11.00 per hour
  • Grandparents – Maximum of $154.00 per child per month
  • Kin-care & Extended hours childcare programs – Private babysitting rates less any Child Care Subsidy received
  • Licensed and approved childcare programs – Your portion of the costs (the difference between fees charged and the amount covered by the Child Care Subsidy) plus any deposit and registration fees.

Special Diets

This benefit provides an additional allowance for households that have special dietary requirements due to medical reasons. 

The following table is an overview of the amount you can receive if eligible.

Special DietsMonthly Pate Per Adult Or Child
Low sodium$21.00
Low cholesterol of low fat$21.00
High fibre$21.00
High calcium$21.00
High protein$21.00
Lactose free$21.00
Low or high potassium$21.00
Baby’s needs – pregnancy$26.00
Baby’s needs – Breast feeding mother (of baby up to 12 months old)$31.00
Baby’s needs – infant formulaUp to $205.00
High calorie (over 2,500 calories)$37.00
HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C$37.00
Diabetic of Heart Healthy$41.00
Milk free$52.00
Celiac/gluten free$82.00
Renal failure/insufficiency$113.00

Utility Connection Fees

This benefit’s intent is to assist households who’ve had their gas or power disconnected and cannot pay the past-due bills. You can obtain coverage of bills for multiple instances of disconnected service. However, you must repay the total amount of the benefit if you utilize it more than once for the same utility. You must repay any reconnection fees as well.

Work-Related Expenses

The purpose of this benefit is to reimburse individuals for costs associated with job searches, employment maintenance, employment preparation programs, and training. Some of the expenses covered are clothing, deposits, testing fees, tools, grooming, meals, and transportation.

If eligible, you and every working adult in your household can receive up to $511.00 per calendar year (January 1 – December 31).

School Expenses For Children

This benefit provides financial aid to parents who incur costs associated with their children’s school attendance. It covers various school-related expenses, including school fees, locker fees, school supplies, gym shoes, and field trips.

  • $52.00 per year per child aged 4 or 5 or in kindergarten.
  • $103.00 per year per child aged 6 – 11 or in elementary school.
  • $179.00 per year per child aged 12 or older, in junior high, or in high school.

Alberta Social Assistance Payment Dates

Income Support payments are issued on the first of the month. Below are the expected payment dates for 2021.

Month Of AssistanceBenefit Payment Date
2021
January12-23-2020
February02-01-2021
March03-01-2021
April04-01-2021
May04-30-2021
June06-01-2021
July06-30-2021
August07-30-2021
September09-01-2021
October09-01-2021
November11-01-2021
December12-01-2021
2020
January12-29-2021

Who Is Eligible For The Alberta Social Assistance Program?

Eligibility for Income Support is based on criteria in the following three categories: age and residency, personal finances, and ability to work.

Age And Residency

To satisfy this requirement, you must be at least 18 years old, live in Alberta, and be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, refugee, or refugee claimant.

Personal Finances

To satisfy the personal finance requirement, you must:

  • Prove that you are unable to pay for your basic needs. 
  • Not have income or assets valued at more than $5,000 in RRSPs per adult and $10,000 equity in cars or other vehicles.
  • Not have income that exceeds what you would receive under the Income Support core benefits.
  • Not have cash or savings that total to more than the liquid assets limit (usually three times the Income Support core benefit you’d be entitled to).
  • Be willing to utilize other income support programs, such as Employment Insurance.

Ability To Work

Your circumstance with regard to employment must fall under one of the following:

  • You’re actively looking for work.
  • You’re working but not earning a sufficient income.
  • You’re unable to work for a short period of time.
  • You need help accessing sufficient training to secure a job.
  • You’re unable to work due to a chronic medical condition or other problem that renders you unable to work.

How Do You Apply For The Program? 

The Alberta Income Support application process consists of two steps:

Step 1: Fill Out The Income Support Application Form

This form can be completed and submitted online. You can also fill out a paper application and drop it off at a local Alberta Supports or Alberta Works Centre location.

Step 2: Meet With An Income Support Representative

Once your application has been processed, you’ll receive instructions on setting up a meeting with an Income Support worker. Ensure you bring the following documents with you to the meeting:

  • Identification
  • Proof of assets you own
  • Banking details
  • Proof of employment income
  • Medical forms, if applicable
  • Immigration papers, if applicable

The Income Support application process generally takes around two weeks.

Alberta Social Assistance FAQs

How will I receive my Income Support payments in Alberta?

If you’ve signed up for direct deposit, you’ll receive your benefits payment on the designated Income Support payment dates. Otherwise, you’ll receive a cheque in the mail either on the designated payment date or three days after.

What happens if I’m working and on Income Support in Alberta?

As an Income Support recipient, you won’t be disqualified from the program if you obtain work. Instead, a portion of your total net employment earnings will be factored in when your benefit amount is calculated – the rest will be exempt.
  • For single parents, the first $230 of net employment earnings are exempt, plus 25% of any amount over $230.
  • For couples, the first $115 of net employment earnings are exempt, plus 25% of any amount over $115 (for each adult).
  • For singles, the first $230 of net employment earnings are exempt, plus 25% of any amount over $230.

What happens if I’ve been overpaid? 

If you’ve been overpaid, you’ll receive a Notice of Overpayment that will provide you with the details. You then have 30 days to file an appeal or pay back the amount specified. The overpayment becomes a debt you owe to the Government of Alberta, which has a right to collect it from you. The Government of Alberta will initiate the collection process when:
  • You sign an agreement to repay the debt.
  • Thirty days have elapsed since you received the Notice of Overpayment, and you haven’t signed a repayment agreement, filed an appeal, or asked for a time extension to prepare your appeal.
  • You file an appeal, and 30 days have passed since you were asked to reschedule your appeal hearing but failed to do so OR since the Appeal Panel has informed you of their decision.

Final Thoughts

If you reside in Alberta and find yourself struggling to pay for basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, it’s wise to seek help from government social assistance programs. Income Support, in particular, is a unique program because it helps cover a wide range of needs and can be tailored to your specific circumstance. The program’s extensive resources will allow you to focus on getting back on your feet instead of stressing over past due bills.


Rating of 5/5 based on 1 vote.

Mark is a writer who specializes in writing content for companies in the financial services industry. He has written articles about personal finance, mortgages, and real estate and is passionate about educating people on how to make smart financial decisions. Mark graduated from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology with a degree in finance and has more than ten years' experience as an accountant. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.

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