Open letter to Social Services
Minister Doug Graham:
Recently I received a letter describing the proposed changes to the Pioneer Utility Grant. Upon review I find the proposal flawed and inequitable.
I don’t object to an income-tested model, as I believe that to be fair, as those who can well afford to pay really don’t need the grant.
What I do object to is a two-tier system that penalizes single seniors. The text of the letter states that Yukon Legislative Assembly members unanimously agreed to make changes to the grant. According to the table of public statutes, the act has been changed. However, the payment schedule outlined in the graph contained in the letter seems to imply that payment schedule is a proposal.
Is it a proposal or is it the final solution? That is unclear.
The proposed change to the schedule of payments is unfairly penalizing single seniors. I don’t understand the rationale behind the two-tiered approach and how the dollar amount for the cut-off was determined. A single senior pays the same rate for gas, oil and electricity as a couple.
Take the scenario of a couple whose income is $55,000, living in a typical three-bedroom house heated with oil that consume about 800 kilowatt-hours of electricity monthly. Compare this household with a single senior living in the same size house, consuming the same amount for utilities and with a similar income. Using the proposed income test, the single senior receives about $800 and the couple receives $1,000.
When the single senior’s net income reaches $114,000 he or she receives nothing, while a couple with the same income still receives about $500 with their cut-off limit of $165,000 net income. This make little sense. There should only be one schedule of entitlement for all eligible grant applicants.
The income test should be applied per household and not based on the composition of the household. As stated in the act the grant is payable based on a principle residence. The grant should be applied equally to all seniors irrespective of the make up of the family unit.
The revised act makes no mention of a two-tiered eligibility criteria. It certainly appears that little thought has gone into the proposed payment schedule, as it really benefits those who need it the least.
Frankly, any senior or couple who has an income of over a $114,000 should not be in need of a grant. Furthermore, I trust the amounts will be adjusted should applicants have an increase or decrease in net income from one year to the next.
This proposed schedule definitely needs to be revisited and the inequities addressed before the changes are finally implemented.