Energy assistance funds for low-income consumers
Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance is a comprehensive, year-round emergency financial assistance program developed by the Ontario Energy Board to assist low-income energy customers better manage their bill payments and energy costs. The program’s design is based on the “Winter Warmth” program (previously administered by the United Way) and is intended to supplement existing government initiatives. LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance, which is funded through the distribution rates of distributors, is a grant program intended to provide emergency relief to eligible low-income customers who may be experiencing difficulty paying current arrears. It is not intended to provide regular or ongoing bill payment assistance.
The delivery of LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance relies heavily on cooperation between utilities and social service agencies. It is expected that as agencies screen and assess applicants in need, that they may refer customers not only for Emergency Financial Assistance, but also for customer service measures and/or conservation programs. However, if no referrals are provided, we recommend that you contact the utility and request what your options may be. For more information, please go to:
The maximum grant level is $500 per fuel per household per year. At the discretion of the agency, you may be eligible for a grant of up to $600 if you live in an electrically-heated home. Some utilities, such as Hydro One, are giving clients additional funds, up to $550 – $575 if clients normally heat with another fuel source, such as oil, but have been using electric heating because they were not able to purchase oil.
The first step is to contact your electricity or natural gas provider or unit sub-metering provider. You will be referred to the social service agency serving the area in which you reside (this agency is called the “lead agency”). The lead agency, and not your utility provider, is responsible for assessing whether you are eligible for LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance. For more information, go to http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/Consumers/Consumer+Protection/Help+for+Low-Income+Energy+Consumers
Upon contacting your utility you will be provided the number for the utility’s Lead agency who will complete an initial eligibility screening with you over the phone. If you meet the initial criteria, you will then be requested to contact another local social service agency in your area to complete a small application process. If you are not eligible for the LEAP program you may inquire about accessing the Emergency Energy Fund (see below).
Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI)
Starting January 1, 2013, funding for five former homelessness-related programs, including the Emergency Energy Fund (EEF), will be combined into one program – the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI). The purpose of the CHPI is to provide flexibility for municipalities to provide locally-based solutions that address local homelessness-related needs.
Municipal Service Managers have the flexibility to choose the programs and services they offer in their communities with their consolidated funding and to establish eligibility criteria. This may include programs and services that assist households at risk of homelessness retain their housing, such as emergency assistance for the payment of utilities arrears. Contact your local Service Manager for information about the specific programs and services available in your community through the CHPI.
Discretionary Benefits for Recipients of Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
Individuals receiving OW or ODSP may be eligible for discretionary benefits for, among other costs, funds for utility and/or heating arrears. The fund is municipally administered. Access and availability varies from municipality to municipality.
Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) – City of Toronto
Applicants in Toronto who are in receipt of OW or ODSP benefits may be eligible to access assistance with energy arrears through the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). To request assistance with energy arrears, clients must contact their caseworker(s).
The Heat and Warmth Program (THAW) – City of London
The Heat and Warmth Program (THAW) provides emergency financial assistance to cover the cost of utility bill arrears in order to avoid disconnection of service. Applicants may be eligible if they meet income criteria, are pending disconnection or are currently disconnected, and have paid a minimum of $50 towards the utility account in the previous four months.
The program begins each year on January 2nd and operates year round. THAW is administered by Housing Support Services at The Salvation Army Centre of Hope. Applications are completed at Library locations throughout the City of London and at The Salvation Army Centre of Hope. Applicants can call 519-661-0343 ext. 300 for more information.
Fund for Utility Service Emergencies (FUSE) – Peterborough Utilities Services
In Peterborough, low-income customers of Peterborough Utilities Services (PUS) may apply to the FUSE program if they are facing disconnection of their utilities or need help to restore service. FUSE funds can be used for PUS utility arrears and security deposits.
Assistance may be available to individuals or families a maximum of once per year except in extraordinary circumstances. Maximum levels of assistance may vary according to availability of funds. FUSE is administered by the Housing Resource Centre, a program of the Community Counselling and Resource Centre. Call 705-743-9122 for more information.
Waterloo Region Energy Assistance Program (WREAP) – Waterloo
WREAP is a seamless, coordinated approach to assisting households with low-income to avoid the consequences, such as loss of heat or homelessness, associated with the inability to manage utility arrears. The program is funded by the Province, corporate sponsors in the community and Winter Warmth (sponsored by Union Gas). 100% of the funds contributed by corporate sponsors go directly to people in need.
If you are not receiving Ontario Works, call the Application Line at 519-883-2100 and select option #1. When you call Regional Social Services, you will need to provide your Social Insurance Number, Health Card Number, banking information (including account number), information on assets and income, and rent or mortgage amount. If you are receiving Ontario Works, speak with your caseworker.
Keep the Heat – Windsor & Essex County
Keep the Heat provides energy assistance to eligible low-income households experiencing financial difficulties and/or in receipt of a notice of termination of utilities. The public and affected families are also educated about energy conservation and provided with tools such as window insulation kits. Contact the Unemployed Help Centre at 519-944-4900, or Housing Information Services at 519-254-4824 to find the location closest to you, or visit www.uhc.ca
North Hastings Community Trust
The North Hastings Community Trust provides low-income families, individuals and children with community referrals and emergency financial assistance. Items covered may include rent, heat, hydro, groceries, and medical expenses. Other requests will be considered on a case by case basis. Call 613-339-1100 for assistance.
Hamilton Utilities Arrears Program
The City of Hamilton has established a fund to help low-income households, including OW and ODSP recipients, to pay for utility arrears, disconnection and security deposits. Families with children are eligible for up to $1,500 in assistance per year. Singles and couples without children can receive up to $799 in assistance per year. To apply, OW and ODSP recipients should contact their case worker directly. Individuals or families not receiving social assistance may contact Special Supports at 905-546-2590. For more information visit: www.hamilton.ca/support.
Housing Emergency Loan Program (HELP) – Hamilton
Operates its own loan program as well as the Provincial Rent Bank. Interest-free loans are available for people in a number of situations, including people who are behind in their rent or utilities. Contact 905-527-7479.
Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board – Prevention of Homelessness and Advocacy
The RRDSSAB Prevention of Homelessness and Advocacy will provide advocacy and support in maintaining necessary heat and utilities to ensure that persons can remain in their homes. This program is funding by the Ministry of Community and Social Services under the Consolidated Homelessness Prevention Plan. Access to Homelessness Funding for utilities and heat is “once in a lifetime” funding. Qualifying applicants residing in the Rainy River District are given support to ensure that all other resources have been exhausted prior to applying for Homelessness funding. Households must be pending disconnection or currently disconnected and all funds are paid directly to the electricity or gas account. The program is funded annually and operates until funds are exhausted. Applicants can call 807-274-5349 for more information.
Niagara Emergency Energy Fund (formerly Share the Warmth) – Niagara Region
This fund covers electricity, natural gas, oil and other forms of energy. Applicants may receive assistance to pay arrears, security deposits and reconnection fees through direct payments to the energy providers. The maximum assistance per household is equivalent to two months energy arrears, security deposits and reconnection fees, in order to restore or maintain utility services, except under exceptional circumstances. Additionally, recipients may only receive assistance under the program once per year, except under exceptional circumstances. For more information and to learn which agency you may apply to, you can visit: http://niagara.cioc.ca/record/NIA5937
Northern Ontario Energy Credit
The Northern Ontario Energy Credit helps low- to moderate-income individuals 18 years of age and older and families living in Northern Ontario. You can get up to $210 for the 2012-13 benefit year to help with your home energy costs, which are often higher in the north due to more severe winters. If you are single, you can get up to $137. These amounts will be adjusted for inflation each subsequent year. These credits are reduced when a single person’s income exceeds $36,806 and a family’s income exceeds $47,322, and are completely eliminated when a single person’s income exceeds $50,506 and a family’s income exceeds $68,322.
Starting July 2012, the Northern Ontario Energy Credit will be paid monthly as part of the Ontario Trillium Benefit instead of quarterly. You must be a resident of a district in Northern Ontario at the beginning of a month to receive that month’s payment.
Benefit payments for the period starting July 2012 through June 2013 will be based on the information in your 2011 personal income tax return.
Eligible individuals and families will receive the last two quarterly 2011-12 benefit year payments based on their 2010 personal income tax returns in March and June 2012.
Ontario Clean Energy Benefit
To ease the impact of rising electricity costs, the Province introduced the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit (OCEB) which provides electricity consumers with a 10 percent rebate on the total cost of electricity charges related to electricity consumption on their bills, including HST. This rebate took effect with electricity consumed January 1, 2011 and will end on December 31, 2015. Beginning September 1, 2012, the 10 per cent rebate will be applied to the first 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity consumed per month. With the 3,000 kilowatt hour per month cap in place the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit will continue to provide a full 10 per cent rebate to almost all residential consumers. For more information, go to the Ministry of Energy’s website at http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/electricity-prices/clean-energy-benefit/
Free energy efficiency/conservation programs for low-income consumers
saveONenergy Home Assistance Program
The OPA has developed new province-wide conservation initiatives, offered through local electric utilities, for low-income consumers. The saveONenergy HOME ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (hap) helps qualified Ontario homeowners, tenants and social and/or assisted housing providers improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The program includes a detailed in-home energy assessment, professional installation of energy-efficiency upgrades and energy-saving measures, and helpful advice on steps eligible participants can take to save even more energy. Until the program is more readily available across the province, the OPA will handle all calls centrally to attend to all customer inquiries through their Call Centre: 877-797-7534. Alternatively, you can call your local utility company for more information on HAP.
Enbridge Gas Distribution: Low-Income Enbridge Home Weatherization Retrofit Program
The Enbridge Home Weatherization Retrofit program provides income-eligible participants with a free home energy assessment and weatherization upgrades at no cost, to improve the energy efficiency of their home. Approximately 750 qualifying low-income households in the Enbridge Gas service area will benefit from this program that will be delivered by Green$aver in the City of Toronto, Peel, York and Durham Regions; by EnviroCentre in the Ottawa area; Green Venture in the Niagara Region; Peterborough Green Up in Peterborough area; and the Environment Network in Simcoe County. GLOBE will be delivering the program in the social housing sector, and the program is available to all eligible social housing providers and residents. The program runs until December 31, 2012, and applications must be received by November 30, 2012.
At the time of home energy assessment, homes will also be qualified for the supply and installation of programmable thermostats and showerheads, kitchen and bathroom aerators are provided for recipients to install themselves.
For more information, learn more about the eligibility criteria and to obtain an application form, visit: GTA, York, Peel and Durham Regions – Green$aver website at www.greensaver.org and select Special Programs tab or call 416-203-3106 (1-888-855-3106 toll-free); Ottawa Area – EnviroCentre at www.envirocentre.ca or call 613-580-2582, ext. 4; Niagara Region – Green Venture at www.greenventure.ca or call 1-866-540-8866; Peterborough Area – Peterborough Green Up at www.greenup.on.ca or call 1-705-745-3238, ext. 202; and Simcoe County – Environment Network at www.environmentnetwork.org or call 1-866-377-0551. Social housing providers should contact GLOBE (Green Light on a Better Environment), a subsidiary of the Housing Services Corporation (HSC), at www.globeservices.ca or call 1-877-733-7472.
Enbridge Gas Distribution: Multi-residential Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program for Social and Assisted Housing
The Multi-residential Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program for Social and Assisted Housing is available to housing providers to make their building stock energy efficient and cutting down their energy costs. Attractive financial incentives are offered on boiler and other natural gas consuming capital projects, low-flow showerheads, building envelope and operational Improvements. Energy audit subsidies are also available. Program enrollment and project facilitation services are provided through GLOBE. For more information, please visit GLOBE’s website at: www.globeservices.ca or email: customercare.hscorp.ca
Union Gas: Helping Homes Conserve Program
The Helping Homes Conserve program provides income-eligible Union Gas customers with free energy-saving upgrades for their home. The program features free measures for participants including a home energy audit, attic insulation, basement insulation, wall insulation, draft proofing. Participating customers may also be eligible for the free installation of up to two shower heads, kitchen and basin aerators, pipe wrap, and a programmable thermostat based. Tenants or homeowners must live in a residential dwelling (three storeys or less with a natural gas furnace) and must meet the income eligibility criteria to qualify for the program.
To apply for the Helping Homes Conserve program, Union Gas customers can call EnviroCentre at 1-877-580-2582, option 4, or they can email us at email@example.com. Full details about the program including eligibility requirements are available at http://www.uniongas.com/helpinghomes/
Discretionary benefit to cover energy conservation measures
This is a $50 one-time benefit to pay for pre-approved, low-cost energy conservation measures, such as caulking, sealing or weather stripping around doors and windows, insulating hot water pipes and hot water tanks, and installing flow restrictors in showerhead pipes. It is available to OW and ODSP recipients, who can contact their caseworkers for more information.
Ottawa’s PowerPlay program
The PowerPlay program, launched in 2005 and delivered by EnviroCentre and the City of Ottawa, provides an in-home electricity audit showing how to reduce electricity and gas consumption and installs up to $300 worth of conservation devices, free-of-charge, to Ontario Works recipients in the City of Ottawa who have an individual account with Hydro Ottawa or Hydro One. Call 613-580-2582 (ext 3) for more information.
Note: This summary is not an exhaustive list. It represents LIEN’s best efforts to identify available programs to assist low-income consumers and will be updated regularly.