Govt aid for utility bills goes up

By Anna Ramdass

In an attempt to assist more people with paying their electricity bills, Cabinet yesterday agreed to increase the limit of power consumption under the Utilities Assistance Programme.

Speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Min­ister, St Clair, Public Utilities Minister Nizam Baksh said the programme was not reaching many as people were crossing the prescribed 400 kilowatt per hour limit.

The programme was established in December 2010 to lend assistance to beneficiaries of public assistance, old age pension and disability grants with paying their Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) bills.

To date, Baksh said, there were 1,286 applicants for electricity grant assistance.

He said up to April 2013, there were some 11,722 beneficiaries of the programme—the majority going to WASA with 11,237 beneficiaries who receive assistance of $200 annually towards their WASA bill.

Persons who receive assistance with their electricity bill, he said, receive some $684  per year.

He said many of the applicants go over the 400 kilowatt per hour limit, and to make the programme more accessible to help those in need, Cabinet agreed to increase this to 500 kilowatts per hour.

Baksh said there were many on the lower economic ladder who are unable to meet their bills and surpass the 400 kilowatt per hour limit, and this change will assist more people.

He added that Trinidad and Tobago has the lowest electricity rates in the Caribbean.

However, Baksh said, education programmes will be launched to inform people on saving and reducing energy through the use of energy-saving bulbs and simply by switching off lights.