As the cost of home heating rises, so does demand for P.E.I.s heating subsidy program

Lt. John Burton, with the Salvation Army's Community Church in Charlottetown, says more Islanders need help heating their homes this winter. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Lt. John Burton, with the Salvation Army's Community Church in Charlottetown, says more Islanders need help heating their homes this winter. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

A provincial program created to help low-income Islanders is expecting to see a record number of applications this year as the cost of home heating continues to rise.

The Salvation Army administers the province's home heating subsidy program, which offers eligible applicants $1,000 per year to help with any kind of heating bills. Officials said they're seeing record demand for the program, having distributed more than $170,000 in October alone.

"The amount of people that are coming to ask for help for home heating is double, triple what it was in previous years," said Lt. John Burton with the Salvation Army's Charlottetown Community Church.

"It shows that the people in P.E.I. are having a tough time with fulfilling the needs of their families, heating their homes."

The recent increase in home heating oil prices means the subsidy won't go as far this year.

The price of furnace oil rose 22.5 cents per litre on Tuesday, meaning a full tank now costs around $2,000.

Fuel delivery companies said the increased price is having an impact on how they operate. Jeff Mellish, owner of Feasible Fuels, said the company is doing more low-volume deliveries.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"We might have had a handful of small deliveries in the run of a day, now as the price increases, we're doing more and more lower volume deliveries than we're used to," he said.

He said the cost is shocking — even to people in the industry.

"I've talked to people that have been in the industry for 30, 40 years and they've never seen anything like this, the price increasing and fluctuating so much."

More funding needed for next year

The provincial government provided $3 million for the subsidy program, which began in 2021.

The program distributed nearly $600,000 between April 2021 and March 2022. With cost increases this year, it has already given out the same amount in a six-month period — between March and November. And Burton said that number is still climbing.

"We will, I have no doubt, double the amount this year for 2022 to 2023."

As the weather gets colder, the need will increase.

Burton said the Salvation Army would like to do more to help Islanders, so they've asked the government to increase the program's funding for next year.

"We just want to make sure no one is left out and hopefully people are helped during those coldest months," he said.