Netherlands to pay down energy bills for residents who fall into debt: Report
The Dutch government and the country’s energy companies could assist households in paying their gas and electricity bills when they are unable to do so. Rising energy prices are putting as many as a million households in financial trouble, including 600,000 who have never had issues making payments in the past, according to NOS.
In response, the Cabinet is putting the finishing touches on a plan to help bail them out, sources told the broadcaster. The plan could take effect this year, before winter arrives. The plan could be announced on Friday in the run up to Prinsjesdag, when the government’s budget plans for 2023 will be announced on 20 September.
Several Cabinet ministers have been involved in talks with energy companies about the issue. Those talks will continue this week. The subject of how much the energy companies will commit to the proposal will be on the table, NOS reported.
One caveat of the new scheme is that it may only apply to those who closed a new energy contract this year, or who were otherwise forced to take energy services at a higher cost due to variable rates. Additionally, making sure the energy companies receive payment can help prevent them from shutting down.
The measure could also help the government save money in some scenarios. People who fall behind on their bills often wind up utilizing counseling services and restructuring to reduce or eliminate the debt, which also costs the state money, NOS noted.
Households which fall too far behind run the risk of being cut off from electricity or gas service. "We want to do everything we can to prevent people from being cut off," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during his press conference last week. "Intensive talks are underway with energy companies about this," he said. “I understand that people are concerned.”
Rutte also appealed to people in financial difficulty to contact their municipality to utilize existing schemes, such as the 1,300 euro energy allowance for people with lower incomes. Not everyone who is entitled to this has applied for it. "The priority now is to reach everyone who is entitled to it."
Reporting by ANP