Over 129,000 Manitoban children are eligible for a program that can provide them up to $2,000 per year towards their education. But only 23% of families are taking advantage of the opportunity. Why aren’t more Manitobans using the Canada Learning Bond?
The Canada Learning Bond Open House, held on January 17, 2018 at David Livingstone Community School in Winnipeg’s North End, helped local families take vital steps towards applying for the beneficial Canada Learning Bond (CLB) program.
The event was a “one-stop shop” where families interested in enrolling for the CLB program could obtain required documentation at no cost from Service Canada. This included documents like Social Insurance Numbers and birth certificates, as well as applications to receive funding through the CLB program.
Funding for children’s education
The daylong event was organized by Winnipeg Promise, an initiative led by Mayor Brian Bowman to determine ways to remove barriers preventing low and modest-income families from gaining access to the Canada Learning Bond. Winnipeg Promise has identified the lack of required identification as the number one barrier to enrolment for the CLB program.
Introduced in 2004, the Canada Learning Bond program is a federal initiative with a substantial impact — the government will provide up to $2,000 every year into Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) for eligible children. Families can also add their own funds to the RESP, and the entire account will grow tax-free. These RESPs can be used for expenses related to post-secondary studies in apprenticeship programs, colleges, trade schools or universities.
A team of Assiniboine Credit Union volunteers was on hand at the open house to help families open memberships, RESP accounts and apply for the Canada Learning Bond program. SEED Winnipeg Inc., a non-profit agency that fights poverty and works to renew Winnipeg’s inner city, and the province’s Employment and Income Assistance Program were also involved in the open house, helping attendees secure needed documentation and providing additional information.
Stepstone to higher education
Mani Luangkhot, Assiniboine Credit Union Manager, Financial Access Programs, said the user-friendly open house event was a good step towards improving access to higher education for all children.
A lot of families living in this area of Winnipeg may not know what they have access to, financially.”
“This allows our community to come to one place and here we are, ready to meet with them,” said Luangkhot. “It’s been amazing to see the community coming together, as well as all levels of government and the community partners, to host a kind of one-stop shop for people to get the identification they need to take advantage of the Canada Learning Bond.”
Luangkhot said Assiniboine Credit Union jumped at the opportunity to take part in an event that aims to boost access to post-secondary education. With six Assiniboine Credit Union staff contributing over 40 hours to the initiative, they were very pleased with the success of the open house and how many families were able to participate.
44 RESP applications were completed, which resulted in 78 children being able to access the CLB. This will help contribute approximately $156,000 towards these children’s educations.
“This open house event fits with Assiniboine Credit Union’s philosophy of being involved with the community, and many of us live in this community,” Luangkhot said. “We’re very happy to be involved in something like this that has a huge impact.”
Unused funds in Manitoba
According to Winnipeg Promise, Manitoba has been well below the national average for people accessing the CLB program.
In fact, the organization says only 30,355 out of 129,205 eligible children accessed the CLB program in 2015. Jesse Hajer, Project Manager for Winnipeg Promise said events like the open house can only help the situation.
It’s shocking to think about the amount of money that has been left sitting there for low-income families that isn’t being taken up,” Hajer said. “It could be sitting in a GIC and earning interest for the future of these kids.”
“This event is a very valuable tool for connecting with families to start them thinking early about post-secondary education for their kids, whether that may be an apprenticeship, college or university. For us, it’s important to make sure people have access to the benefits that are available out there.”
Luangkhot said similar broad-based Canada Learning Bond events have been held in other western Canadian cities, but this was the first for Winnipeg — and she hopes it won’t be the last.
“It’s been great to have Winnipeg Promise step up and say ‘We’re going to support you guys — let’s do this,’ ” she said.
“We’ve had an amazing turnout,” Hajer said of the event. “We’re very happy — it’s beyond expectations.”
Learn more about the Canada Learning Bond here and speak with an Assiniboine Credit Union representative to help determine ways to save for your child’s education after high school.