Keep the Heat

Don’t get left in the cold – energy supports available for Amherstburg families



Special to the RTT


With this latest cold snap, families are turning up the heat in their homes, often driving up the costs on their energy bills.

For many low-income families, this time of year can be especially difficult.

Help is available though, according to Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

“When temperatures drop this low, it isn’t just a matter of comfort, it’s a serious public safety issue,” said DiBartolomeo. “No person should feel ashamed of needing help for this – we all hit hard times and it is on us as a community to pull our neighbours up when they need that helping hand.”

Amherstburg Community Services facilitates two programs that can help low-income families afford to heat their homes this winter. The Keep the Heat program assists households that have accumulated debt on their accounts with energy companies, while the Ontario Energy Support Program (OESP) provides subsidies for families struggling to keep up with their energy bills.

Individuals can apply for both of these programs, or simply find out if they qualify for assistance by contacting Amherstburg Community Services at 519-736-5471 or by email at

While the programs are not provided directly by Amherstburg Community Services, their staff will take individuals through the application processes and help provide the fastest possible outcomes from their location right here in Amherstburg.

Amherstburg Community Services is located at 179 Victoria St. S. Their website is

ACS offering two programs to help people with their utility bills


By Ron Giofu


Those having difficulty paying their utility bills may be able to turn to Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) for assistance.

ACS offers two programs to assist local people who are having problems with their bills. The local non-profit agency helps people apply for the Ontario Energy Board’s “Ontario Electricity Support Program.”

Branka Stewin, program co-ordinator at ACS, said the OEB program could help reduce electricity bills for low-income families or seniors with a fixed income. Reductions can amount to $30-$60 “which is quite substantial.”

“There are some guidelines and they can call here to find out what they are,” noted ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Stewin added that a person has to have lived at their address for at least six months to qualify. There are other pre-screening questions that must be answered with eligibility also depending on how many people live in the household and what the household after-tax income is.

“If they are over 65, this is good for five years,” Stewin said of a successful application. “If they are under 65, they have to re-apply every two years.”

ACS programs1

While the recent hot weather likely doesn’t have many people thinking of heating bills, ACS is reminding the public of its “Keep the Heat” program. Stewin advises people to contact ACS for more information on how to qualify, adding that ACS helps people to apply though the actual program is offered through the Unemployed Help Centre and Housing Information in Windsor.

“There are a few things they need to bring in to substantiate their income,” Stewin stated.

DiBartolomeo added the program is good one time per heating season.

“(Members of the public) can access this once to get help paying a bill that is putting them in disconnect or in the threat of disconnect,” said DiBartolomeo.

Stewin pointed out that Hydro One customers would need to be pre-screened by calling United Way Simcoe at 1-855-487-5327.

Both programs are available to residents of each municipality ACS serves.

“It’s open to residents of Harrow, LaSalle, McGregor and Amherstburg,” said Stewin.

DiBartolomeo said they are noticing a rise in the number of people who need such assistance while Stewin pointed out there are those who have to make a choice between eating or paying their bills.

“The numbers are increasing year-to-year,” said DiBartolomeo. “We are just very fortunate to have these two programs that can provide assistance.”

For information on the two programs, call ACS at 519-736-5471.

Amherstburg Community Services offering programs to help people stay warm



By Ron Giofu


A pair of programs are currently being offered through Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) to help low-income residents stay warm this winter.

ACS is continuing to offer its “Keep the Heat” program for those with utility bills that are overdue and are in danger of being cut off or have been cut off.

The second program now being offered is the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP). While people don’t have to go through ACS to access the OESP, ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said staff at ACS can assist in preparing the application so the process can more smoothly for residents.

Those who qualify for the OESP program can receive a monthly credit to their electricity bill. It can range from $30-50 per month, depending on how many people live in the home and the household income.

DiBartolomeo estimated ACS assists roughly 400 people per year, but believes many more still don’t know they can be helped.

“People are unaware that they can access these programs locally,” said DiBartolomeo.

The issue of people needing help paying their bills is getting worse, DiBartolomeo believed, and she added people have to pay more on those bills.

“It’s a serious problem right now with the cold weather,” said DiBartolomeo.

For more information, contact ACS at 519-736-5471. The public can also view their website at