Seniors’ heat subsidy to vary by income

Seniors' heat subsidy to vary by income The minister for Health and Social Services is Doug Graham, but you can call him Robin Hood.

The minister for Health and Social Services is Doug Graham, but you can call him Robin Hood.

Under planned changes to the territory’s Pioneer Utility Grant, lower-income seniors will see their subsidy rise while those with a higher income will get less or be cut off altogether.

Seniors who pay to heat a home that they own or rent at market rates are eligible for the annual grant.

Last year the value of the grant was $1,020, and it goes up each year with inflation.

With the number of seniors in the Yukon set to explode in the coming years, the government predicted that expenditures for the program would double in just a few years, said Graham.

“We realized that there was no way we were going to be able to handle those kinds of increases for all seniors.”

Graham said the intent is to keep the size of the pot the same as it is now, but redirect the money so it goes to the most vulnerable.

Last year the government paid out about $1.6 million through the program, he said.

In addition to a new graduated scale based on income, seniors outside of Whitehorse can expect about $80-100 more than counterparts in the city, said Graham.

Seniors can expect to be cut off from the subsidy at income levels of $165,000 for couples or $115,000 for singles, he said.

Gail Rushton, vice president of the Golden Age Society, said many in the group support the change, although some do not.

“I believe it will end up helping the lower income singles and couples. It should be great for them.”

The necessary legislative changes were tabled last week in the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

The details will be set out later through regulations.

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