It’s safe to say that a vast majority of women does not plan to become single mothers. More often than not, becoming a single mom catches you off guard. Being unprepared, most moms are not aware of the financial help available to them as single parents raising their children alone. When I became a single mother, I had no clue about any tax benefits or government grants and took me a while to research this information and apply for these programs.
This post provides a list of important grants available to single mothers in Canada. You will find this information about grants especially valuable if you recently became a single mother.
Grants available to single mothers in Canada can be divided into two categories: federal and provincial. In order to qualify to receive these grants and benefits, you need to be a separated or divorced parent of the child who lives with you and for whom are you are primarily responsible (care, living, and education). Divorced mothers who have a shared legal custody of a child are likely to receive one-half of any available benefit.
Applying for most of these grants, available to you as a single mother on a federal level, can be done during the taxation period. However, if you become a single mother at any point throughout the year you should apply for available grants right away.
Federal Grants & Benefits
[2020 Grant: Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan]
Due to the unique challenges posed by the global Coronavirus pandemic, the Canadian government is offering an immediate assistance to those who need it most.
- As a single mother, you will see a one-time automatic boost to your Canada Child Benefit in May 2020. The boost amount is $300 per child.
- If you and your children are fleeing violence, the Canadian government is also providing $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. This includes funding for facilities in Indigenous communities. This means, that if you need help in this category, it is ok to reach our and rely on these immediate service providers to assist you and your children, even (and especially!) during the time of pandemic.
- There will be an additional credit on Gods and Services Tax credit if you have a low or modest income. The average boost amount will be $400 for an individual.
See more details about the Canadian COVID-10 economic response on this page.
Canada Child Benefit (CCB)
As the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) describes it, the Canada child benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. Learn more about this benefit on this page.
Reduction of Income Tax At Source
I wrote about this little-known benefit in my post Increase Your Income With T1213 Tax Form. I highly suggest you read it in detail, but basically this form makes it possible for you, as a taxpayer, to reduce monthly income tax if you have considerable ongoing expenses (such as childcare or ongoing medical expenses).
Canadian Pension Plan Splitting
You can apply to split the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) savings during your separation or divorce. This includes dividing all CPP savings that were accumulated during the time you lived together with your ex-spouse. You are eligible for equal division even if you have not made any contributions while living together. Importantly, you need to apply within 36 months after the end of your marriage (including separation period).
To view full details and apply, visit this page.
Enhanced Employment Insurance
To receive payments under the Employment Insurance (EI), you need to be an individual who lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, due to shortage of work, seasonal or mass lay-offs.) You must also be actively looking for employment and able to work. Click here to see full eligibility requirements. Always apply for EI benefits as soon as you stop working. There is a one week waiting period so you don’t want to waste any time.
As a single mother, you could also be eligible to receive an additional Family Supplement to your EI. This supplement may increase your benefit rate up to 80%. To qualify, your net income should not exceed $25,921 per year.
Disability Tax Credit (DTC)
The disability tax credit (DTC) is a non-refundable tax credit that helps people with disabilities reduce the amount of income tax they may have to pay. There are numerous mental and physical disabilities that can qualify you to receive this credit. You might be surprised to discover that you are actually eligible to claim this amount. Go to this page to see the list of qualifying factors.
Canada Education Savings Grant
If you want the government to pitch in for your child’s future education, this grant can help. Basically, you need to register for your child’s Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) and the government adds 20 cents on every dollar you contribute, up to a maximum of $500 on an annual contribution of $2,500. After high school, your child can withdraw the money to help pay for either full-time or part-time studies.
Learn how to open a RESP account here.
Good to know: Children Fitness Tax Credit and Arts Credit have been eliminated in 2017, so you can no longer claim it.
Provincial Grants & Benefits
Although most grants vary greatly province by province, there are some common benefits you can count on.
If you have been a stay at home mom or make a very modest income, you need to apply for Legal Aid in your province of residence. Legal Aid is a provincial program that can cover your legal fees in divorce, custody proceedings, and other legal services you might require.
Simply search online for the Legal Aid in ____________ (insert your province in the search window). I suggest applying to Legal Aid immediately after you separate from your spouse. Some provinces have more generous Legal Aid available vs others, but they can point you to some good free resources in any event.
There is a large variety of food assistance programs available in each province to single mothers. While getting food assistance might not be something you are comfortable with, it really helps and is a great help available to you and your children. Typically, provincial food assistance is available to single mother via different local organizations.
Most provinces in Canada offer childcare subsidy. While the amounts of financial assistance you will receive will vary depending on your province, this benefit is invaluable to all single moms. There is usually a wait to received the childcare subsidy, so make sure to apply as soon as possible. If you are pregnant, you can still begin your inquiry about childcare subsidy early on, as you will need to go back to work eventually.
Personal Counseling and Therapy
Each province offers special programs to assist individuals with counseling and psychotherapy. To find programs available to you, search online for your provincial Health Authority website. YWCA in various provinces (see below) often have group and individual counseling resources available to single mothers.
YWCA is an organization that provides a wealth of information, resources, and assistance to single mothers. Their mission is to be a turning point for women, and they are equipped with up-t0-date information about legal issues, shelters, child care, employment assistance and more! Under some programs, they also can provide you with a free fitness pass to their facilities.
I highly suggest connecting with your local YWCA if you just become a single mother and/or fleeing an abusive relationship.
Housing and Rental Assistance
As a single mother, you might be eligible for a subsidized housing benefit available in most provinces. Yes, the wait might take a while but the cost of this housing is extremely affordable and will help you live in much bigger space with your children for a fraction of market cost.
Some provinces, like British Columbia (BC), also have Rental Assistance programs. If your income meets the requirements, you will be able to receive financial assistance to pay for your rent. To see this program details in BC, check this page. If you are in Ontario, you need to visit Rent Geared to Income (RGI) program page.
I hope this list of benefits and grants for single mothers in Canada will be of help to you. I am not ashamed to say that I used most of these services myself, and they helped me to overcome an extremely difficult period in my life when I just became a single mother who was unemployed and unprepared. These programs were created because they recognize the difficulties single mothers face, and you will be amazed at how much help you can get while you are building your single-parent family up.