Using tax system for social benefits a 'sticking point' for dental benefit: experts

OTTAWA — Economic and public policy experts warn the federal dental benefit may not reach the families most in need because the government has chosen to distribute it through the tax system.

Ottawa plans to send cheques to qualifying low- and medium-income households to help pay for children's dental needs through the same platform used for Canada Child Benefit payments.

That is run through the Canada Revenue Agency, which University of Calgary economist Gillian Petit says is a problem because many low-income families are less likely to file tax returns.

That means they face barriers to accessing the Canada Child Benefit payments and could encounter similar roadblocks when it comes to getting the new dental benefit.

Carleton University's Jennifer Robson says about 10.5 per cent of adults with children under the age of 18 don't file a tax return, and those families tend to be below the poverty line.

The new benefit is meant to be an interim measure while the federal government works on a more complete dental-care plan, as part of the Liberal-NDP confidence-and-supply agreement.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was not immediately available for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press