Effective February 1st, income assistance in Aklavik will no longer be distributed in the form of vouchers.
According to Aklavik Senior Administrative Officer, Fred Behrens, all income support clients will receive a cheque towards covering their monthly living expenses.
Previously, individuals seeking assistance would receive some cash and the rest would be provided in vouchers at businesses where they shop.
However, providing assistance in the form of vouchers was ruled discriminatory after a Northwest Territories Human Rights Panel went to court in 2013.
Now, there is some concern from Aklavik Mayor, Andrew Charlie, that the new program may encourage people to abuse the system.
Behrens says that most of the people will spend their money responsibly.
I think the responsible ones will be totally responsible. But the abusers will continue to abuse. And they will have more money to get to the bootlegger and the drug dealer.
When it comes to drug usage, Behrens does not think there will be an increase in the community.
I don’t think we are going to have to worry about heavy drugs that much. I have been talking to RCMP here and they pretty much know what’s in town and what’s not.
There has been discussion from the Mayor about having receipts issued for accountability.
It would be a good way of allowing a person to have their full cheque but at the same time you are giving the individual some accountability. They have to prove that they actually spent their money on things that they need. Maybe not all receipts but some receipts says Behrens.
In the meanwhile, he says that there should be a system set up to teach people how to spend their money properly.
Currently, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok have switched to the new system of income assistance distribution.