Increase in demand and decrease in funding affecting Keep the Heat program
Keep the Heat, a program that support low-income families struggling to pay utilities, has been getting a "huge increase in demand" so far this year, and is expecting that demand to increase.
According to Anna Angelidis, who heads the Keep the Heat program, said normally the number of applicants is lower this time of year due to the winter season coming to an end.
"We are not seeing that this year," she said.
From April of 2022 to the end of February, Angelidis said Keep the Heat has helped over 2,230 community members, which represent a 12 per cent increase from the year before.
Angelidis said the high cost of living may be to blame for the increase.
"It comes down to affordability," she said. "It's extremely difficult with high inflation, with rents going up, hydro rates going up. It's not manageable for many families that we are supporting."
War in Ukraine affecting local natural gas prices
Andrea Stass, a spokesperson for Enbridge Gas said natural gas is a commodity and therefore affected by supply and demand.
"What we saw in 2022, was a fairly significant increase in the market price due to the conflict in Ukraine," said Stass.
She said prices are adjusted every three months to go along with supply and demand, which increased the average household price by 22 per cent.
She said the reason why the conflict in Ukraine has affected natural gas prices is because of broader market forces.
"Gas from the US was going overseas to serve Europe, who were no longer able to get their natural gas from Russia. So it's a did affect our prices here in Canada," said Stass.
Increase in demand, decrease in funding
Despite the rising demand for their services, Angelidis said Keep the Heat lost $100,000 in funding from the city as it struggles to cut overall costs.
She said the program had to put in a request to the City of Windsor to increase the funding for the month of March in order to help more applicants.
Still, Keep the Heat is not turning people away.
"We take each each application, review it very carefully, and review their circumstances and approve the payments accordingly," she said.
Low income households are eligible to access the program.
"The account has to be their name, they [must have] received a disconnection notice. And they are eligible to receive support once in a calendar year per utility provider."
"If we're not able to support them, then we reach out to other services in the community to see what other emergency funds are available for them to access," said Angelidis.