Hike In Natural Gas Rate Costing Salvation Army

BlackburnNews.com file photo. (Photo by Mike James)

The Salvation Army in Chatham-Kent expects an increase in demand providing help with home heating bills.

This after the Ontario Energy Board announced rate increases for natural gas will take effect October 1st.

It’s estimated Union Gas, Enbridge and Natural Resource customers will see their bills rise between $22 and $40.

That’s in addition to the $5 the Liberal government’s new carbon tax will tack on, when cap-and-trade plans kick in next year.

Community Ministries Director Captain Stephanie Watkinson says the Salvation Army is preparing for a boom in both their natural gas and energy assistance programs.

“People are really struggling to pay their hydro bills, which have increased drastically. Now with an increase in gas bills, they’re not going to be able to make it and still pay their rent, their mortgage and feed their families.”

Watkinson says the Salvation Army has helped more families this year to date, than they did for the entire year in 2015, “and we have not even gotten into the cold months yet,” she says.

So far this year, a total of 90 households have been granted $30,000 – and counting – in assistance paying their Union Gas bills, compared to 77 households and about $25,000 in all of 2015.

For their Entegrus program, the difference is even greater. There were 74 households granted about $16,000 in 2015, while over $35,000 has been doled out to 167 households, as of this month.

She says the gap between what families can afford to pay, and what they’re actually paying, is astronomical.

“When we’re doing the assessments with the home heating costs, we look at what their income is versus what their housing costs are.

“Typically you’re supposed to be paying only 30 per cent of your income on housing costs, and people are paying, in Chatham-Kent, 75-80 per cent of their income on housing costs.”

Watkinson says the numbers speak for themselves. Their programs now run year-round – not just in the winter – because the burden is so great on low- and especially fixed-income households.

“Seniors’ income is not going to go up any, because they’re on Old Age or CPP, and a lot of the working families [we help] are working as many hours as they possible can and they’re still not making ends meet,” she says.

“The energy prices really need to drop in order for people to be able to afford to live.”

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