Government wants more accessible heat for low-income residents
By: PAYGE WOODARD
The Nova Scotia heating rebate program is being revamped to make it easier for those eligible to apply.
The program starts each November and offers a yearly rebate of up to $200 to assist low-income households with heating costs.
Service Nova Scotia CEO Joanne Munro says the aim is to make the program more accessible by the fall.
One of the updates to the program will be to bring the application process online.
Munro says going digital will be more convenient and allow for faster turn-around times to distribute the rebate.
“People expect to be able to interact with their government digitally,” Munro says.
Paper forms will still be available to those who prefer pen to pixels.
Applicants are required to fill out an application form and send it by mail or fax, or drop it off at an MLA’s office.
The heating assistance program also plans to use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to draw in more applicants.
Munro says the program is targeting a younger demographic.
“We want to make sure we reach them,” she says.
“We know their preferred form of communication and information gathering is through digital and social media.”
This year the program saw a decrease in applicants. Close to 44,000 people applied.
As of January 29, $6.1 million of the $11-million budget set aside for the program has been spent.
In the last budget year, the program cost $9.4 million.
Rodger Gregg of Service Nova Scotia says 2,600 applications were rejected this year.
Tracy Barron, a spokesperson for Service Nova Scotia says applications are rejected if they don’t meet the eligibility requirements, which could mean applicants didn’t meet the income threshold or prove they paid for heating.
As the program looks towards next fall, no decision has been made about expanding the criteria for who qualifies for a rebate.