Nov. 5, 2008
FREDERICTON (CNB) - Government will invest an additional $6.3 million per year into energy efficiency and other programs to assist New Brunswickers in reducing and offsetting their energy costs. This is over and above $25 million in previous spending increases in this area, and $41 million in energy tax reductions. These investments bring the total value of government's energy efficiency and relief programs to $99.3 million per year, up from $27 million when the government took office.
The announcement was made by Energy Minister Jack Keir, who is also minister responsible for Efficiency NB; and Social Development Minister Mary Schryer. (Multimedia)
"As a government, we have recognized that the best way to reduce energy costs is to reduce energy use," Keir said. "That is why we have made a strong commitment to energy efficiency programs that can reduce New Brunswickers' energy bills by an average of 30 per cent, savings they will realize year after year."
"While we recognize the importance of energy efficiency programs for the medium and long term, we also recognize the importance of helping those who need it most with their immediate energy costs," Schryer said. "With today's investments, we strike an important balance between energy efficiency programs for both low- and higher-income New Brunswickers and direct assistance programs to offset costs this winter."
The new investments, which total $6.3 million, will come in the following areas:
"The Salvation Army is proud to have been active in the Maritimes for 123 years, and to be the largest non-governmental supplier of social services in Canada," said Diane van der Horden, Maritime divisional secretary for public relations and development for the Salvation Army. "We are proud to build on our record of delivering similar programs in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and thank the government of New Brunswick for this opportunity."
Additionally, the government has already announced:
Since taking office, government has also undertaken a number of other initiatives to assist New Brunswickers with their energy and day-to-day expenses: the minimum wage has been raised by $1.05 per hour, giving minimum-wage earners up to $2,270 more in annual income; the low-income seniors benefit has been doubled to $200; and social assistance rates have been raised by 8.2 per cent.
In addition to new money investments, government is working in other ways to assist New Brunswickers.
Government has engaged Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada (CCS) to tour the province and offer its services to New Brunswickers to help them manage bills and reduce debts. CCS will hold 15 sessions across the province, and New Brunswickers will be invited to seek advice. Those who receive either government's emergency fuel supplement or the Salvation Army's Warm Hearts, Warm Homes benefit will be strongly urged to undertake a one-on-one session with CCS.
A government directive has held NB Power rate increases to an average of 3 per cent. This directive has minimized rate increases in New Brunswick. Since the majority of New Brunswickers heat their homes with electricity, this policy has protected them from the higher increases that have taken place in other jurisdictions.
Government is also extending its policy on winter disconnections. NB Power has been directed to extend the policy by an additional month, to the end of April. NB Power will also be ensuring that greater oversight will be put in place to be certain that the policy is working. To date, an average of 600 fewer New Brunswickers per winter have been disconnected since the winter before the policy's implementation. This policy directs NB Power to not disconnect electricity for those in legitimate economic need during winter months, provided that they contact their utility and make an effort to pay their bill. With this strengthened policy, NB Power will continue to ensure that all options have been exhausted, and that disconnections only occur as a last resort.
"Since taking office we have had a strong record on issues relating to energy efficiency, social assistance and broader programs to offset winter heating costs," Keir said. "With this comprehensive package we are renewing and expanding our commitment to help those New Brunswickers who need it most. Creating a self-sufficient New Brunswick will allow each of us to establish the kind of life we want, right here in New Brunswick. To reach that goal, some individuals and families in our province need our support. These initiatives provide targeted assistance to help vulnerable New Brunswickers achieve stability and set them on the path to self-sufficiency."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Background information follows. MEDIA CONTACT: Jordan O'Brien, Communications New Brunswick, 506-457-4999.
Investments in energy efficiency and relief since Sept. 2006 ($ millions)
|Name of program||Annual value as of Sept. 2006||Previously announced increases||Annual value of increases announced Nov. 5, 2008||Total annual value|
|Social Development heat supplements||12.4||1.9||2.3||16.7|
|Low-income energy efficiency programs||4.3||2.9||2.5||9.7|
|Other energy efficiency programs||6.8||9.8||1.0||17.6|
|Interest-free efficiency loans||3.4||10.4||0.0||13.8|
|Investment to Warm Hearts, Warm Homes||0.0||0.0||0.5||0.5|
|Cut to the provincial gasoline tax||0.0||41.0||0.0||41.0|
Energy assistance programs through the Department of Social Development
Energy efficiency programs
A new Home Heating System Upgrade Bonus (HHSUB) of $500 will be made available to participants of Efficiency NB's Existing Homes Energy Efficiency Upgrades and Existing Multi-Unit Residential Building Upgrades programs, as well as the Department of Social Development's Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program for Low Income Households. Participants in these programs receive this bonus for switching from low-efficiency home-heating systems to high-efficiency ENERGY STAR- or EPA-rated systems between Nov. 5, 2008 and March 31, 2010.
The $500 HHSUB is offered to participants in Efficiency NB's Existing Homes Program in addition to the grant of up to $2,000 or an interest-free loan of up to $10,000. Participants in the Multi-Unit Program are eligible for a grant of up to $10,000 (based on the number of units). For more information on Efficiency NB's programs, visit www.efficiencynb.ca, or call 1-866-643-8833.
The Low Income Retrofit Program, which is being increased by 35 per cent, provides up to $4,500 to help low-income homeowners, and $1,500 per unit to owners of apartments occupied by low-income tenants with efficiency upgrades. An additional investment of $2.5 million will allow about 2,250 households to benefit from this program this year. For more information about programs offered by the Department of Social Development visit www.gnb.ca, or call your regional office:
Acadian Peninsula: 1-866-441-4149
Saint John: 1-866-441-4340
Salvation Army's Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program
The Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program will be administered by the Salvation Army will be available to people making less than $28,000 who heat their own homes, and to households with an income of less than $35,000, and who also heat their own homes. The benefit will be valued up to $450, and will be made available to individuals who are in an emergency situation. Detailed eligibility criteria will be announced before the program is available on Jan. 5, 2009.
The program is funded jointly by government and other contributors. Government intends to match contributions dollar-for-dollar, and has budgeted $500,000, with a goal of a $1-million fund. To date, $700,000 has been raised, of which government has contributed $350,000 to match contributions from the Canadian Oil Heat Association, which has made a contribution of oil, and the following organizations, which have made financial contributions:
Once application forms have become available, New Brunswickers may apply for assistance by contacting the Salvation Army, in person, by telephone or by Internet. Application forms may also be picked up and dropped off at any Service New Brunswick location. Service New Brunswick will forward these applications to the Salvation Army. As of today, New Brunswickers seeking information may call 1-877-217-9090 to hear a recorded message, and request more information.
Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada
Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada, Inc. (CCS) is a registered non-profit organization. Established in 1994 as a community service, with offices located throughout Atlantic Canada, CCS continues to provide guidance to help its clients to solve debt problems through financial counselling, education, and debt repayment programs. CCS is referred by, and supported by, many energy assistance programs through various employers and government agencies.
Under a partnership with the Government of New Brunswick, CCS will soon hold 15 workshops where New Brunswickers may seek advice on reducing their debt and managing their bills. The workshops will be held in:
Fredericton (two workshops)
Moncton (two workshops)
Saint John (two workshops)
Additionally, any New Brunswicker may seek CCS assistance by calling 1-888-753-2227, or by visiting www.solveyourdebts.com.