FREDERICTON (GNB) – Legislation will be introduced today that would continue and expand the Home Energy Assistance Program.

“We have listened to New Brunswickers who have made it clear that they want the government to protect education, health care and services for families when looking at balancing the budget,” said Finance Minister Cathy Rogers who will be tabling the legislation. “Our government has chosen the path of a modest return to balanced budgets by 2020, rather than deeper cuts to balance the budget more quickly. We believe that this is the right choice.”

The proposed legislation would renew the program for another five years. Without these legislative amendments the program would end with the 2016 benefit.

“The last thing the government should be doing is taking help away from those who need it the most to balance the budget,” said Rogers. “I will be proud to stand in the legislature later today to introduce this bill.”

As part of the Strategic Program Review, money was set aside in the budget to continue this program. The Home Energy Assistance Program had provided a one-time payment of $100 to families with a total income of $28,000 or less. Under legislation introduced today, the program would be extended for five years and the income threshold would be expanded to $30,000. Applications for the program will be accepted beginning in early January.

“Our board of directors welcomes the extension of the program”, said Roger Martin, co-chair (non-profit sector) of the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation. “With winter nearly upon us, we appreciate initiatives like this one designed to help New Brunswickers who are less fortunate.”

The program is one of several offered to assist with home energy costs. Other programs available to eligible residents include the low-income seniors benefit, the heating allowance, the emergency fuel benefit and the fuel supplement.