Lloyd George was counting on a rebate check from the province to help lower his heating bills in the winter.
But after going to Service New Brunswick to apply, she was told the program was over. That meant the Woodstock resident and other low-income families in the province would no longer be entitled to $ 100 to offset electricity.
“I know it’s only $ 100, but $ 100 is $ 100, it’s a tough time,” George said. “I was very shocked.”
The Home Energy Assistance Program was put in place by the Liberals in 2016 for five years. The current government has chosen not to renew it.
Robert Gauvin, MPP for Shediac Bay-Dieppe and Liberal social development critic, said the program was effective and could easily have been extended.
“People don’t understand – why cut that $ 100,” he said. “It’s not a lot of money for some people, but for some it makes all the difference in the world.”
Robert Duguay, spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said there are a number of programs in place to help seniors and low-income households pay for heating costs.
“This program has ended and has not been removed,” he wrote in an email.
“A lot of people would trust it”
Energy rebate request forms were generally available in early January.
George files taxes for the elderly in the community, and he said the end of the program was a shock to many of them.
“Why they would cancel it, and why not tell anyone that they canceled it at all, is beyond my understanding. A lot of people would trust it,” he said in an interview.
About 33,000 New Brunswick families have received reimbursement each year, according to the opposition.
George said benefits like the energy program are having an impact on helping make ends meet with rising costs for groceries and gasoline.
“It’s going to affect a lot of people, it means they have to shell out $ 100 more than they were eagerly anticipating, to offset those heating costs,” he said.
“If people had been informed in advance, they might have made other arrangements.”
New housing allowance
Duguay said available resources include provincial energy efficiency programs and the annual low-income seniors benefit of $ 400.
The new Canada Housing Benefit program was expanded in December. This short-term benefit supports families with family incomes between $ 12,000 and $ 50,000.
Those eligible for the program receive an average of $ 300 to $ 475 per month, depending on income, household composition and location, according to Duguay.
The provincial government expects it to support about 6,700 households.
Will the new housing program be enough to compensate for the end of the energy rebate? The opposition spokesperson said he was not sure.
“It’s incomprehensible right now,” said Gauvin. “Why would they stop this program that was working so well for about 100,000 people in New Brunswick?”
Anyone facing a winter heating emergency should call Social Development at 1-833-733-7835.