A much-desired break on utility rates is now available to struggling residents.
Low and fixed-income households can apply for the city’s new utility relief grant through the St. Albert Food Bank & Community Village as of Oct. 1.
The one-time grant is meant to soften the blow created by this year’s higher-than-average rate hike.
A new line was added to utility bills this winter to deal with the city’s $60.7 million utility infrastructure deficit. The supplemental capital contribution fee will cost the average homeowner roughly $300 more per year.
Concerned about the hardship this could cause to lower-income residents council decided to set aside $200,000 from the stabilization reserve to pilot a relief program.
The one-time grant is being administered by the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village in amounts of $150 for single-family households and $50 for multifamily building residents.
The grant amounts were determined based on 1,000 households accessing the program, but the city estimated that up 1,256 could meet the eligibility requirements. Since the funding is capped, the program will operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Executive director Suzan Krecsy said it was hard to estimate whether the economic downturn would cause that number to quickly be reached or surpassed, but that the not-for-profit would be collecting information on those who filled out applications so that the program could better serve residents if it were to be renewed in future years.
“(We’ll be) collecting the data for folks that don’t qualify as well, so then we can be looking at what we can do better there,” said Krecsy.
“One good thing that’s going to come out of this is that it might be bringing folks down who haven’t accessed our programming before,” she added. “We have a lot of prevention programming on the Community Village side.”
Eligibility for the grant is determined by the Low Income Cut-off measure. Applicants must also have resided at a fixed-address in St. Albert for at least six months to qualify.
Accessing the grant will not affect other financial aid programs recipients’ may have access to such as income support or old age security.
The utility relief grant is available between Oct. 15, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016. Forms are available on the not-for-profit’s website and on-site.
The St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village will also be hosting an intake day on Oct. 15. Volunteers will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help fill out applications, answer questions and process applications.
The program will be reviewed by the not-for-profit and the city next fall to determine its success.