Are you struggling in making ends meet?
Are you concerned that you may not be able to cover your Energy and Water bills?
Who can you turn to if you are experiencing financial difficulties?
There is a Solution – provided for you by the Victorian Government – that Solution is called URGS!
What does URGS stand for?
URGS stands for Utility Relief Grant Scheme and can be accessed through the Department of Human Services in Victoria. Any payments by them towards your bills should not affect your Pension. You do not need to pay the money back!
How can URGS help me?
URGS is a bi-annual payment from the Victorian Government that can assist you in reducing outstanding debt that you may have with your Gas, Electricity and Water Bills.
How do I apply for URGS Assistance?
Every Energy Retailer and Water Retailer has a Hardship Policy that can be viewed On-Line which explains how you can gain this assistance. If you hold a current Centrelink Reference Number (CRN) you would automatically be eligible to apply for URGS Assistance or, if you do not hold a current CRN you may be able to still apply for URGS, however you’d need to be affiliated with the Energy and Water Company’s HARDSHIP PROGRAMME.
As URGS Assistance can take some time to be processed (anywhere from 7 to 15 weeks), it is suggested that you enter into a regular payment plan with your Energy or Water Retailer, where, if possible, you can cover usage (based on your Account history), so as to ensure that the debt doesn’t grow. If you can afford it, look at a management plan that covers usage and debt over a 12, 18- or 24-month period, so as to allow you the opportunity of getting things back on track over a sensible amount of time. You can discuss this with the Retailer’s Hardship Team, or, should you not feel comfortable in doing so, there are Free Financial Counselling Services available and they can speak on your behalf.
In the Northern suburbs, Kildonan Uniting Care can provide this assistance. Their contact number is 8401 0100, and they are located at 188 McDonalds Rd, Epping. You can view their website on www.unitingkildonan.org.au – if necessary, they can provide assistance in filling in the URGS Application Form as well as providing Energy Efficiency Advice. Kildonan also provides Energy Audits, so as to enable you to work towards reducing your Energy Consumption which will reduce your costs.
Energy Saving tips are generally available on most Retailer’s Websites and can also be found on www.energy.vic.gov.au – some simple things will help you better manage your usage and again, this will help in reducing your costs.
How much can the URGS Payment be towards my debt? From a minimum of $100 up to a maximum of $650, on your Electricity, Gas and Water bills, available every 2 years. So, quite a substantial amount is available to assist you.
When contacting your Energy or Water Retailer, firstly, ensure that you are on the best plan available – all Energy Companies have a dedicated Retention Team – if you’ve heard of a better offer from family or friends, mention this to the Consultant – their job is to keep you happy!
Finally… Don’t feel that you can’t climb this difficult mountain… the best option is to call and explain your situation to the Hardship Team – they hear all kinds of stories and I doubt that you will tell them something that they haven’t heard already. They are there to assist you in getting things back on track.
What criteria am I required to meet in applying for URGS?
Firstly, you would have some Financial Hardship triggers – this could be caused by Medical Issues, Motor Vehicle Repairs, recent Family Bereavement, the arrival of an unexpected bill, a reduction or loss in income, etc.
Discuss your options – select an option that is workable for you. And keep in regular contact with the Hardship Programme – if something happens, let them know – that way they can look at other options to ensure that you get back on track without too much discomfort.