Relief fund launched to help poor households pay energy bills


A relief fund to support people on low incomes who are struggling pay their energy bills has been launched, months after the government announced it.

The Temporary Emergency Fund will effectively cap the amount households spend on gas and electricity at 13% of their income before tax, in addition to the energy price cap which came into force in January. The government will use the fund to pay the difference to energy suppliers.

‘High energy prices hit people on lower incomes hardest,’ said former social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher, who helped negotiate the deal with the four largest energy companies and debt support agencies De Nederlandse Schuldhulproute and SchuldenlabNL.

Households whose income is less than double the social minimum – €2,980 for single-income households and €3,794 for people living together – are eligible to apply to the fund, which will cover the period from October 2022 to March 2023.

People earning less than 160% of the minimum level will have their bills reimbursed if they exceed 10% of their income.

However, the support will not be enough to fully compensate everyone struggling with rising fuel prices. Research agency TNO estimated last month that more than 600,000 households were living in fuel poverty, or one in every 13, but the money in the fund is only enough to give €100 to 82,000 households.

Anti-poverty minister Carola Schouten said in a letter to parliament that the government and the energy companies were each contributing €24.5 million to the fund.

She added that the launch of the fund, which had been due to come into effect by the end of last year, had been delayed because of privacy-related technical issues.

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