One more week and then the Emergency Fund Energy will stop. This was created to provide financial support to low-income households with high energy bills. Dozens of applications are still being received every day, which is why the General Dutch Association for the Elderly (ANBO) is calling for an extension of the application period.
The emergency fund was supposed to start in January, but was delayed and started a month later. It was then also decided to allow the application period to run until the end of April. To date, 102,000 requests have been registered. 35,000 have been approved so far, 28,000 rejected.
“I think it’s special that the emergency fund is now ending. I can’t imagine that all people who are entitled to support have also been helped,” says Anneke Sipkens of the ANBO. She would like to see an extension until the summer. “That gives people room until new measures regarding the energy surcharge are known.”
There were many problems at the start of the emergency fund. At that time, people could only submit an application via an app on a telephone or tablet. Later it was also possible via the PC, but the procedure remains complicated, says Sipkens. “There are many steps you have to go through. Even for the volunteers it is sometimes difficult. That is why more time is desired, but we were not given that.”
Until the end of next week there are still office hours at various locations to help people with their application. This is possible at the consultation hour of Geldfit, a partnership of debt counselors, municipalities and companies.
Dozens of requests are still received every week at the Deventer location. “People who were familiar with the Emergency Fund applied for support in the beginning,” says Jenneke Nieuwenhuize of Geldfit. “We hope that people who have not yet made the application and can’t figure it out themselves, come by as soon as possible.”
A woman who submitted an application during the consultation hours of Geldfit is told that she is eligible for support. “That’s great. I have to turn every penny around and of course it’s nice if I can get some support,” she says. “I have tried to save as much as possible. And I am very grateful if anything can still be done.”
There are alternatives for those who are not on time, says Nieuwenhuize. People can still turn to Geldfit for support, but also to the municipality of Deventer. And that church is not alone.
Lelystad ‘lower threshold’
Some municipalities have set up their own emergency fund. In Lelystad, for example, 450,000 euros are available for residents with money problems. They can get up to 1300 euros. “Our fund is only accessible through physical office hours,” says Chuck de Rond, poverty policy advisor. “Because we want to get in touch with citizens right away, to see if we can help them on several fronts.”
The counter has just been open a week and dozens of people have reported. The only criterion is that people have not received an energy allowance because their income is just above 120 percent of the social assistance standard. “We keep it as accessible as possible, with few assessment frameworks,” says De Rond. “We look at someone’s situation, income and expenses. And how we can contribute.”
He has the impression that the residents of Lelystad have not liked the national Emergency Fund for Energy. “It also concerns people who were not born in the Netherlands and then the solid framework and online application is a barrier. We noticed that it was not accessible enough.”
‘Quickly put together’
Former politician Lodewijk Asscher, ‘quartermaster’ of the fund, acknowledges that an application was difficult for some, especially in the beginning. “We put it together in three months, precisely because of the urgency. That’s why there was only an app first, then a web version and we’ve been improving it along the way.”
He calls the wish to keep the counter open longer a justified question. “But it is a temporary fund for support during the winter period. It was actually supposed to close on April 1. That is now a month later, so that as many people as possible can still apply. But energy companies and the government have indicated that it is a temporary fund which is now coming to an end.”
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