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Council to review low-income household relief grants for water bills and property taxes

At council’s meeting tonight kicking off three days of operational budget talks, a pilot relief grant program through the County Foundation is being presented to support low-income households struggling with water bills and property taxes.

Municipal staff suggest the $80,000 be approved for 2022 with funding from unspent reserve grant funds and that an additional $87,315 be approved for 2022 if the additional support is required to fund eligible applications.

The maximum grant for water bill relief would be $250 for 2022; and $500 for property taxes.

Council initiated the idea for the program in December following approval of new water and wastewater rates.

The average residential water and wastewater bill is $250 bi-monthly.

Applications may also be considered for property taxes. The average residential tax bill is $2,500 (based on estimated assessment of $275,000 at 2016 – the current phased-in value).

The gross income threshold for a single family would be $31,200 per year; and for a family, $62,400.

A staff report suggests tenants responsible for paying water bills may apply as can property owners for tax grants; residents would not be able to apply for both.

“These thresholds are expected to have the program reach 160 to 320 households if fully subscribed,” noted Ellen Hamel, Revenue Services Supervisor in her report to council. “If applications exceed the amount of funds available, additional funds from the 2021 unspent community grants will be available to fund an additional $87,315 in grant applications. Preference will be given to those most in need of financial support; based on their household income. There are approximately 300 water accounts in
tenants name.”

Administration of the grants through the County Foundation, she notes, is beneficial as an external agency that already has existing partnerships with supporting agencies such as the Prince Edward Learning Centre and Community Care for Seniors – which already connect people in need with available supports.

The County Foundation would receive 10 per cent of the total grant program. With $80,000 approved, the cost to administer would be $8,000 with $72,000 being distributed to residents in need.

“As means-tested applications are recommended for this program, they will have a degree of complexity and personal financial information that County residents may not feel comfortable with County staff
administering,” stated Hamel.

There are existing programs in place for people requiring assistance, Hamel notes, but “there still appears to be a gap” as none of them provide direct relief and are designed for ‘high use scenarios’ or emergency assistance only for those in threat of homelessness.

“The income eligibility criteria of this proposed program are higher than most thresholds and has the potential to reach a broader group of people in need.”

Applications would be included in the 2022 final tax bills, as well as in the water and wastewater bills – with applications being taken from May 15 to June 30.

Payment agreements will continue to be offered to residents who do not qualify for the grant, but require additional time to pay their water bills.

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  1. Julia says:

    Pilot relief. With their new budget and high water rates in Canada soon all all us will need relief.

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