Program provides emergency heating relief for low income families
By Mark Newman, News Staff
Krista D’Aoust says there will be no shortage of applications.
The director of family services at Neighbour to Neighbour Centre is overseeing the delivery of the Winter Warmth program on the Mountain that began on Feb. 1.
Winter Warmth is a Union Gas initiative aimed at helping low income families who are having difficulty paying their natural gas bills and who are facing the possibility of having the utility shut off.
“It is a one-time emergency assistance,” said D’Aoust, who noted the maximum payment, which goes directly to Union Gas and appears as a credit on the gas bill, is $500 and many of the subsidies run in the $200 to $300 range.
Neighbour to Neighbour Centre has received $14,000 from the utility that will be used to cover the emergency payments.
D’Aoust said as of this past Monday the centre has provided subsidies for four Mountain households and they are reviewing seven more applications.
She is also getting phone calls with inquiries about the program each day.
D’Aoust noted there are hundreds of Mountain households who could potentially benefit from Winter Warmth.
“This is going to help people on CPP, pensions, people who are working poor, it’s going to help families who are struggling because they’re waiting for EI,” she said.
Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support program recipients are being asked to seek help through those government agencies before attempting to access the program.
D’Aoust said individuals or households must have received a notice of pending disconnection to qualify.
They must also provide proof of income, rent receipts, proof of address and identification for every member of the household.
D’Aoust said in most cases households facing a disconnect can call them and they will get that natural gas account put on hold the same day pending the application process that can take up to three weeks.
Andrea Stass, manager of external communications and media relations at Union Gas, said that since the year-round program began in 2007, the utility has provided $221,000 worth of emergency relief to about 550 families in the Greater Hamilton Area.
Stass said the program is being administered by the United Way of Chatham-Kent who has lined up social agencies such as Neighbour to Neighbour Centre to provide the program in 29 communities across Ontario.
“They really understand the needs of the local community,” Stass said.
Mountain residents looking for more information on the program should contact Neighbour to Neighbour Centre at 905-574-1334 and ask for a Winter Warmth worker.
Lower city residents can apply for the program through the North Hamilton Community Health Centre at 905-523-6611.