Common Front for Social Justice

For Immediate Publication

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Press Release

Poor people live in anguish with no heating oil; it is unacceptable that Shawn Graham's government lets social assistance recipients in the cold this winter

Moncton, Wednesday January 31, 2007

The situation must change regarding the allocation of a special supplement when there is an emergency regarding heating.

Presently, the provincial government gives a $110 per month heating supplement from November to April but this is insufficient for certain social welfare recipients. Welfare rates are way too low to cover basic needs, especially during wintertime. In November 2004, the CFSJ had requested that the heating allowance be increased to $125 per month to offset the rate of inflation and the rising cost of heating fuel. We have to remember that electricity rates have risen significantly this year. Today, the CFSJ is reiterating its demand that the heating allocation be raised to $125 per month for the six colder months of the year.

Among those who have an oil heating system, there are some poor people who run out of heating oil during the coldest time of winter. They telephone the Department of Family and Community Services to inform them of their desperate situation and to request emergency heating fuel. They then face a series of recorded messages and referrals from one office to the other. Government workers are turning desperate clients down. Government employees do not adequately evaluate the situation of these distressed people. There must be a stop put to this running around from one government Department to the other to solve a crisis situation. Urgencies should not be put on hold for around 10 days until a solution is offered. We need an effective system in place where distress calls are channelled to a Centralized Emergency Service.

The CFSJ is asking that the provincial government immediately put in place an Emergency Fund to solve the emergency situations which arise during the winter. The next provincial budget should include a Special Fund to assist with heating for individuals and families living on social assistance or on low income. It is unacceptable that people remain without heat during the winter. A budget must be set aside to prevent the extreme sufferings of these citizens.

We are asking that:

1.     The heating supplement be raised from $110 to $125 from November to April.

2.     The government immediately give the Department of Family and Community Services an Emergency Fund to assist those on social assistance who are in a crisis situation for lack of heat.

3.     The lack of heat during the winter be considered as an emergency and that special allocations be given to people in such a situation.

4.     A Special Fund for heat related emergencies be included in the upcoming budget for social assistance recipients and low income earners.

5.     As proof of its determination to help the poor, the government make some type of arrangements with oil companies so that they deliver for $100-worth of oil and that there be no extra fees for after-hour deliveries for people living on social assistance and for low income earners.

For more information, please call the Office of the Common Front for Social Justice (851-7084) or the two CFSJ Co-Chairs John Gagnon (547-6061) and Linda McCaustlin (854-5856).