Households struggling to pay their energy bills during COVID-19 now have access to additional financial support directly through Service NSW and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, thanks to a $30 million boost to the Government’s emergency support Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme.
Energy Minister Matt Kean said the NSW Government is doing everything it can to ease cost-of-living pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic and has more than doubled the budget for the EAPA Scheme next financial year.
“For ease of access, residential energy customers can now apply for EAPA vouchers directly through Service NSW and will be called for an assessment without having to leave their house,” Mr Kean said.
“I encourage people that need bill support during this tough time to head to the Service NSW website and register for an energy voucher assessment.”
The EAPA assessment threshold has been temporarily increased so people can receive up to $400 per assessment twice per year, compared to the normal amount of $300.
“This means the annual maximum limit of vouchers for a household with both electricity and gas has increased from $1,200 to $1,600, up by $400,” Mr Kean said.
“We are expecting more people across NSW to need this emergency bill support as they are faced with unexpected changes to income and usage increases while working from home.”
During the assessment for EAPA vouchers, NSW Government representatives will also contact energy retailers with customers to assist with getting customers onto hardship plans, which will further protect customers during this extraordinarily difficult time.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the funding for EAPA was part of almost $100 million recently allocated to help our most vulnerable, including $34 million to prevent homelessness, $10 million to support charity programs and $6 million for Lifeline's operations in NSW.
"We are deploying the financial strength of NSW to bolster the health system, keep people in jobs and assist those most in need of help during this difficult time," Mr Perrottet said.
"This funding will help thousands of people meet their energy bills as we head into winter."
People needing further information should visit service.nsw.gov.au and search EAPA.
At the same time, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders across NSW are being reminded to apply for the Seniors Energy Rebate now.
“With the COVID-19 virus keeping seniors, who are among the most at-risk in our community, confined to their households and using more electricity, we’re very aware of this extra pressure being applied on their back pockets,” Mr Kean said.
“This NSW Government annual rebate, which will ease electricity costs by $200 a year, has been available since July last year but a majority of those eligible are yet to apply, and we’re urging them to do so now before applications for this financial year close.”
The program extends NSW’s generous energy rebates to Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders for the first time.
In 2019-20 over $329 million is being invested by the NSW Government on energy rebates alone, with almost a third of all electricity customers receiving a rebate.
To be eligible, applicants must hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) and be the primary account holder named on the electricity bill.
For more information and to apply online, customers can go to service.nsw.gov.au and type ‘Seniors Energy Rebate’ into the search function.
Customers who are unable to apply online can call Service NSW on 13 77 88. Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders who have already applied this financial year can reapply again from 1 July 2020 for the new financial year.