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December 3, 2008
For immediate release

Provincial Departments and Community Groups Work Together to Help Ease the Burden of Energy Prices

Social Services and Seniors

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The Government of Prince Edward Island is making a $200,000 donation to the Salvation Army Fuel Program and offering a number of other programs in an effort to help all residents cope with fluctuating energy prices this winter.

Low-income individuals and families can qualify for emergency home heating assistance through the Salvation Army beginning January 1, 2009. The fuel program is made possible in part through the donation by the Department of Social Services and Seniors.

“This emergency assistance will be used to help Islanders who have no other means for heating their homes this winter, so no one has to choose between putting food on the table and filling up the furnace oil tank,” said Social Services and Seniors Minister Doug Currie.

A similar program last year helped approximately 320 low-income families heat their homes. People who received emergency fuel assistance last winter will again be permitted to apply.

Clients who access the Salvation Army assistance will also be referred to the Office of Energy Efficiency, of the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry. The departments are working together with the help of service clubs and seniors groups in an effort to ensure every eligible Islander has the opportunity to curb energy consumption – and high energy bills.

Volunteers from community groups and service clubs met recently with representatives of the Office of Energy Efficiency to begin an energy conservation partnership. Groups able to provide installation have been provided with toolkits to make necessary repairs to homes in need in their communities, while also offering information on available programs that could reduce the energy bills of homeowners in the long term.

“It’s a case of neighbours helping neighbours,” said George Webster, Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry. “In every community, there are people who are having trouble making ends meet because of fluctuating energy costs – people who would benefit greatly from expert help in getting their energy use under control. The community leaders in these groups can now directly help the families whose homes are most in need of energy help.”

The partnership will explore ways for residents and the government of Prince Edward Island to work together in order to reduce the Island’s dependency on high-cost, non-renewable energy sources in the long term.

The Department of Social Services and Seniors also continues to offer the Seniors Emergency Home Repair Program, which helps older low-income adults make their homes safer by replacing aging and damaged furnaces, oil tanks, windows and doors. These repairs often improve the energy efficiency of homes. Last year, 400 low-income seniors received grants through the program.

Another way seniors may be able to defray some of the costs related to home ownership is by accessing the Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Deferral Program offered by the Provincial Treasury. Low-income seniors can apply for a deferral of property taxes for their home, with all deferred taxes becoming payable when the property is sold or when the owner’s estate is settled. Interest does not accumulate on the deferred taxes from the date of approval of the application.

A toll-free number has also been created to receive enquiries about any of the programs related to heating and energy-saving assistance. Callers to 1-877-734-6336 will be connected directly with the organizations that can help.

BACKGROUNDER -- Home Heating Assistance

Salvation Army Fuel Program:

• In the winter of 2008, the Government of Prince Edward Island provided an emergency donation of $200,000 to the Salvation Army Fuel Program to provide low-income Islanders with heating fuel. Of that donation, $150,000 was used and $50,000 remains to be distributed this winter with an additional $200,000 donation for 2009.

• Low-income Islanders can apply for emergency assistance once per year for a maximum of 450 litres of heating fuel, beginning January 1, 2009.

• To qualify, a single person must have an income level of $17,000 or less; $20,000 or less for a couple; $25,000 or less for a family with one child; and $30,000 or less for a family with two or more children.

• All clients will be expected to produce proof of income and expenses to the Salvation Army and the Salvation Army has the right to refuse assistance if personnel feel an applicant does not have sufficient need.

Energy Efficiency Statistics:

• The average house on Prince Edward Island burns 3,500 litres per year, which would cost approximately $3,000 at current prices.

• There are 17,000 low income households on Prince Edward Island, approximately 8,500 of which would be considered to be eligible homeowners, by estimates of the Office of Energy Efficiency. OEE has so far reached 3,000 households.

Programs Available Through the Office of Energy Efficiency:

1. Home Energy Low-income Program (HELP) – Provides low-income homeowners with free assistance in completing comprehensive air-sealing, installation of energy saving devices and free furnace cleaning. Homeowners who have previously utilized this program will be eligible for the enhanced HELP program. The 2008-09 program is particularly focused on controlling air leakages – the major cause of home energy loss.

2. PEI ecoEnergy Audit Assistance Program – Provides financial assistance to aid homeowners in evaluating residences for energy efficiency and identifying possible improvements. Under this program, audits are available free of charge to eligible low-income households.

3. Renewable Heating – Renewable heating systems (wood, wood-pellet, solar, etc.) will be eligible for the Prince Edward Island Energy Efficiency Loan Program, to a maximum of $10,000, as long as the client makes efficiency improvements to the home as well.

4. Low Income Loan Relief – Low income clients can qualify for up to 50 per cent loan relief for home improvements recommended in the ecoEnergy Efficiency Evaluation Report, under the Prince Edward Island Energy Efficiency Loans Program. If clients earn up to $15,000 in income, half of their loan will be written off. For incomes between $15,000 and $30,000, one-quarter of the loan will be forgiven.

Heating Help Through Social Assistance:

In 2007, 560 clients on social assistance received help with their heating expenses.

• Of those, 330 families received assistance through the fuel tender program which provides home heating fuel to Islanders who have been on long-term social assistance.

Seniors Emergency Home Repair Program:

Since the re-introduction of the program in November 2007, it has helped almost 400 low-income seniors make necessary repairs to their homes, furnaces, oil tanks, windows and doors, in turn also making their homes more energy-efficient.

• In total, crews have replaced 54 furnaces and 13 oil tanks through the program.

• The program contributes 50 per cent of the cost of eligible repairs up to a maximum grant of $1500 to qualifying seniors.

• To be eligible, seniors must be 60 years of age or older with a combined net income of less than $30,000 per year. They must also own the house to be repaired, which must be their principal residence.

Programs Available Through the Provincial Treasury:

• Unlike other Atlantic provinces, Prince Edward Island does not charge provincial gasoline tax or sales tax on heating oil. This is equivalent to a tax savings of $16 million per year.

• Under the Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Deferral Program, seniors aged 65 and older who have lived in their principal residence for at least six months in the past year and have an annual household income of less than $30,000 can apply for a deferral of their property taxes for that residence. Should the homeowner decide to sell the property, all deferred taxes become payable. If the homeowner continues with the program for life, the accumulated taxes are required to be paid out of the estate. Interest does not accumulate on the deferred taxes from the date of approval of the application.

Media Contact: Stefanie Arduini
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