NWT families worried about how to feed their children during Covid-19 school closures should apply for Jordan’s Principle funding, says Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland.
Jordan’s Principle offers federal funding that helps to ensure the health, social, and education needs of First Nations and Inuit children are met. It is named for a five-year-old from Norway House Cree Nation who passed away in 2005.
The funding is normally used by territories, First Nations, and other organizations to ensure Indigenous children can access speech therapy, educational supports, or medical equipment.
But following school closures across the country in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jordan’s Principle funding is available as a backstop for Indigenous families who cannot otherwise access the money they need for groceries.
The federal government says its new $305-million fund for Canadian Indigenous communities during Covid-19 will help to ensure a lot of families get the food they need. However, if you’re still unable to cover the cost of your children’s food, Jordan’s Principle can help.
Government of Canada: Submit a Jordan’s Principle request
All schools in the NWT receive annual territorial funding toward improving students’ access to healthy food. Many schools provide a combination of breakfast, lunch, and snacks to all children using this money.
However, with the abrupt closure of most NWT schools on Tuesday, March 17, many families may be left unprepared for the additional financial burden of providing those meals.
A report on food insecurity using 2017 and 2018 data found the Northwest Territories had Canada’s second-highest percentage of children living in families where affording food was a struggle – 30 percent, behind Nunavut’s 79 percent.
This means around a third of NWT families have “inadequate or insecure access to food” because of their financial situation.
Five percent of the NWT’s residents are considered severely food insecure, the report found.
How to apply
If you are unable to access support from your local community – you should try there first – Jordan’s Principle funding can help families get funding for food during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NWT’s Jordan’s Principle coordinators are Kimberly Lafond and Sarah Steeves. They can be reached at 1-866-848-5846 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cleveland said the coordinators are very responsive but you can help them out by preparing this information before getting in touch:
- your child’s name and birthday
- proof your child is eligible (First Nations or Inuit)
- a description of their needs (like healthy food)
- what product or service they need (like grocery assistance)
- what you think the cost will be
- how often the support is going to be needed
Jordan’s Principle also needs copies of documents that show your child or children need the things you’re requesting. That could be documents for prescriptions, or a referral or written assessment from a healthcare worker, social worker, or teacher. (Not sure about this? Here’s more information.)
Jordan’s Principle says if you’re having trouble getting those documents with all the Covid-19 disruption, “this will be taken into consideration.” You will probably still need to send something in later, though.
If the coordinators agree that you need support, they can set up an account for your family at your local grocery store.
For example, if you request $250 for one week of groceries and Jordan’s Principle agrees that needs to happen, the coordinators will ensure $250 is in your account at the store.
“They are not expecting people to get by on beans and rice, they are being realistic,” Cleveland said, encouraging families to ask for what they need to keep their children healthy.
“The federal government has indicated people can go back as often as they need,” said Cleveland.
“People might be OK now, but maybe in three weeks they’ll need some help.”
She suggested if people need help applying, they can also contact their MLA.
Cleveland is putting together a list of similar services people can access right now, like the Inuit Child First Initiative (which is similar to Jordan’s Principle) and the NWT’s rent subsidy and income assistance programs.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education and the NWT Teachers’ Association are figuring out how students can continue to access school-based food programs while schools are closed.
Correction: March 28, 2020 – 10:43 MT. This article initially suggested there had been a rule change related to Jordan’s Principle to accommodate requests related to Covid-19, when in fact the same set of rules is being applied to help people. Additionally, a couple of items you’ll need to have when you request help from Jordan’s Principle were missed off our list. We’ve since added them in.