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Budget eases heat costs

The province is introducing a heating rebate for low-income Nova Scotians, but it won’t help Bonnie Heffler one bit.


The province is introducing a heating rebate for low-income Nova Scotians, but it won’t help Bonnie Heffler one bit.


Heffler, a single mom, lives in a heat-included Dartmouth townhouse. Of her $749 monthly social assistance, she spends $550 a month on housing — and her co-op is considering raising the rent to cope with rising oil costs.


Since Heffler doesn’t pay for heat, she won’t qualify for the rebate.


“If they raise my rent, I’m in trouble,” Heffler said.


She will get a $4 monthly increase in her social assistance this year, but said that won’t help much.
The province announced in yesterday’s budget it’s cutting $28 million out of the rebate on everyone’s power bills to pay for the low-income heat rebate.


Starting May 15, it will eliminate the eight per cent tax rebate on electricity that isn’t used to heat your home. You’ll pay full HST on the $10.83 basic fee, and on power up to 27.4 kilowatt hours per day. The move means a family of three will pay $95 more a year.


And you won’t get a tax rebate on your power bill at all between May 15 and Aug. 31.


The province will use $10 million of the money it’s saving to create a $150 or $200 heating rebate for low-income Nova Scotians. But they’ll have to apply for it. In 2005, 9,000 people eligible for Keep the Heat, a similar rebate program, didn’t apply.


Finance Minister Michael Baker said staff will send filled-in forms to former Keep the Heat clients in hopes they will apply.


The province will put $400,000 into the Salvation Army’s Good Neighbour program, which helps those who can’t pay their heating bills.


It’s also spending $768,000 to increase income assistance rates by $4 a month, and spending another $18 million to create 300 affordable housing units.


-rachel.boomer@metronews.ca

 
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