Concern Grows For Seniors As Requests For Utility Assistance Increase

United Way Media Release

The United Way of Bruce Grey is expressing concern at the number of seniors who are accessing its Utility Assistance Program. “We have seen the number of seniors accessing the program almost double,” United Way of Bruce Grey Executive Director Francesca Dobbyn explained, “we went from 77 in the previous 12 months to 146 this last 12 months”

The United Way manages an extensive Utility Assistance Program that processes request for support for natural gas and electricity arrears along with providing $600 grants for furnace oil, propane and wood requests. “We are closing in on $3 million in applications processed and supports provided in the past 13 years” Dobbyn highlights.

The United Way is also concerned to see a drop in the average income of the applicants. “We know seniors are generally at a lower level of income, but this isn’t restricted to those households.” The average income of a household accessing the program has dropped from $17 832 to $15 305 Dobbyn highlighted in the report.

Ensuing that people have heat and electricity is important to keeping people housed and disconnection from utilities can lead to evictions.

The United Way also wishes to remind people that as of November 15th there is a ban on electricity disconnections until May 1st with natural gas having a voluntary ban until March when that ban also becomes part of the customer service rule requirements.

The United Way also analyzed the data for the program from 2015 to 2019 and found that most people accessed the program once with only 10% returning a second year and only 3.5% returning a third year. The United Way utilizes the program to connect applicants to all energy saving related programs assisting people in reducing their overall energy costs.

Should people wish to access the program they should call 211, who will direct them to the right agency for the right energy source for the right area of Bruce Grey. Electrical and natural gas applications for support are also processed by Y Housing and the Salvation Army in Wiarton.