The province is substantially increasing funding for and eligibility to the Heating Assistance Rebate Program (HARP).
An additional one-time increase of $100 million is being dedicated to the program. And the maximum payment to eligible households is increasing from the present $200 to $1,000.
Additionally, the eligibility threshold is being raised from the current $44,000 household income to $85,000 household income. The current individual category is being eliminated, so single people living alone are a household. And all eligible will receive the entire $1,000 with no scaling.
Everyone who is already eligible for HARP will automatically be topped up to the full $1,000 payment. People who were previously denied will have their applications reviewed.
The program will be opened to new applicants on January 30, here.
Currently, there are about 34,000 households in the program, and as winters proceed, typically about 46,000 households take advantage of it. With the increased funding announced today, 100,000 households will benefit this year.
“The inflationary pressures we’re seeing across the country and around the world are making life harder right here in Nova Scotia,” said Premier Tim Houston at a press conference today called to make the announcement. “We know many families are struggling to heat their homes and we want to help. This investment will help many more Nova Scotians stay warm this winter.”
The opposition parties welcomed the infusion of cash into HARP, but said what’s really needed is a structural change to the program.
“Finally,” said NDP Leader Claudia Chender. “We have been calling for an announcement like this for months and months as inflation has continued to go up. And we’ve heard from Nova Scotians across the province about how much they’re struggling… so we are very glad to see some action on this.”
“One time is better than nothing,” continued Chender. “But our our hope and our advocacy will be focused on ensuring that this is the beginning of a comprehensive look at the way that this government can support Nova Scotians through this cost of living crisis.”
“The issue is a lack of vision from the government on what the overall strategy is,” echoed Braedon Clark, the Liberal critic for Public Works. “As we’ve talked about this in the legislature going back to the the summer session, thresholds for basically all government programs substantially need to change and you can’t just do it one time and piecemeal and expect that that’s going to make a difference.”
“Sometimes I wonder if this government just kind of flits from from headline to headline news to news,” continued Clark. “We all knew that winter was coming. We all knew it was going to be cold in December and January and February and March. And yet six months ago, in July, when we were in the legislature, we were talking about these issues and there was no action. And in fact, the government was saying doing things like this might actually make the inflation problem worse. And now, six months later, we’re getting an announcement, which is welcome.”
Today’s announcement also included $15.4 million in new money for existing supports.
All people on income assistance will receive an additional payment of $250 by this Friday. Foster families will receive $1,000, also this Friday.
Additionally, $8.7 million in grants will be issued to community organizations, including:
- $3 million for the Disability Support Program residential facilities and child and youth caring programs
- $3 million for food banks
- $2.6 million for 26 family resource centres
- $100,000 to provide $10,000 each to 10 transition houses.
Such organizations do not need to apply for the grants.
I assume Chender is opposed to an 8% or a 6% hike in HRM property taxes. Voters may take a more serious view of her and the NDP if she speaks out.