“I have a rental house that is not insulated, the wind blows right through it,” says Van Roekel. It’s not really a problem now, but it will be this winter. “My energy bill is already high and the contract expires at the beginning of next year. This would mean that I would have to pay around 1000 euros a month in energy costs during the winter months.”
Harald does not save that with his income. He is chronically ill, rejected and receives unemployment benefits. “It is a low-middle income, but too high to claim rent allowance, energy subsidy, healthcare or other welfare pools from the municipality.”
‘I’m terribly worried’
Therefore, he has been shopping for months via an app where you can pick up products on the date, and he only buys a product if it is 1+1 free. “I am terribly worried. A cold house is not good for my health. I would like to have the house insulated, but the housing authority does not want that. I have previously tried to have solar cells installed on the roof through a subsidy scheme, but for example that was too bad according to the company that came by. I’m doing everything I can to keep my costs down, but if other parties oppose this, I’m stuck.”
Van Roekel is extremely irritated by politicians who call for the installation of drag strips. “I had an energy assistance service, a ‘Tochtbuster’ from the municipality, they couldn’t do anything for me, I had done everything in my power. I can no longer cut costs and the housing construction will not insulate. So I see with fear on the accrual accounts.
Damoed also has problems with the insulation of his rented house. “I get to stay with friends more often,” he says. “Then I can turn off the stove.” Watch the video:
Van Roekel is not the only one having a hard time. In April, several municipalities sounded the alarm. They also saw that low-middle income earners are finding it increasingly difficult to continue paying current bills due to a lack of public compensation.
The food bank is also seeing a national increase in the number of middle-income earners who are able to locate the food bank for the first time. “More people have come in recent months, including now also middle-income people. The size of the increase differs from place to place,” says a spokesman for the food banks.
Middle incomes under pressure
“You can now see that the middle income group is under enormous pressure,” says Anna Custers, professor of poverty interventions at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. “This increases the risk of poverty or a temporary setback in the economy.”
According to the Custers, it is difficult to get a good picture of the middle-income group struggling with the high bills. “There is a lot of attention on the low incomes who are having a hard time. But the incomes that fall above 120 percent of the social minimum, and are therefore not entitled to all kinds of benefits, are less easy to identify and this makes support with targeted compensation more complicated.”
People with an income of up to 120 percent of the social minimum may be entitled to, among other things, the energy allowance. This social minimum income is the minimum amount that someone needs to live on according to the government. For a single person, it is just over 1250 euros per month. If you live together or are married, this amount is 1790 euros.
Unknown to the municipalities
“The group of fragile middle incomes is largely unknown to the municipalities. If a municipality were to receive compensation, they depend on the people who report themselves, and there is a complicated assessment procedure to see if someone meets the conditions for subsidies. But even more importantly, there is currently no support for this group.”
So people with little or no savings and a big increase in expenses are facing a huge problem. “To maintain the same standard of living, more money is needed. Without compensation or wage increases, it will hurt this group. Many households are already actively working on their consumption and savings. But I fear a group that will be hit by rent arrears And increasing energy bills go into debt. Interest, fines and letters from collection agencies will then start piling up. Money worries can cause more physical and mental problems. So there is a threat of a bigger problem that affects society as a whole.”