BC Hydro is helping customers struggling to pay their electricity bills during the coronavirus pandemic with credits and even “payment vacations,” the government said on Wednesday.
BEFORE CHRIST. Prime Minister John Horgan and Minister of Energy Bruce Ralston announced the relief at a joint press conference in Vancouver and Victoria.
“For people who have lost their income due to COVID-19, there are significant challenges ahead,” said Horgan.
As part of its payment assistance during the pandemic, BC Hydro will offer a three-month credit to those who have lost their jobs or are unable to work. This will represent approximately $ 477 in savings and will not require a refund.
“Those who have lost their jobs or are unable to work because of COVID-19 should not have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and paying their electricity bill,” said Ralston.
Since the funds are used as credit on an individual’s account, it could even last more than three months, said Ralston.
In addition, small businesses forced to close due to the virus will be given three months “leave”. This means that for electricity consumed between April and June, the invoices will be canceled.
“This will bring immediate relief to retail stores, restaurants, tourism, the personal services industry and other small businesses that are struggling to keep their employees on their payroll,” said Ralston.
BC Hydro will also offer the option of deferring payment up to 50% in the coming months to large industrial companies.
Customers will have until the end of June to request an exemption, said Ralston, adding that the application process is still being finalized. Applications are expected to be open to residents by the end of next week.
The entire relief program is expected to cost approximately $ 90 million.
Ralston also said that Fortis BC and the B.C. The Public Service Commission are currently discussing measures they could take during the pandemic.
Prior to the press conference, a spokesperson for BC Hydro confirmed that effective Wednesday, rates will be cut by one percent. The utility says the reduced rates are independent of the coronavirus pandemic and are the result of its results for fiscal 2019 and that it requested a rate reduction last August.
The new rate will save the average customer up to $ 16 a year in electricity costs. Commercial customers could save up to $ 715 and industrial customers could save up to $ 230,000 per year.
“This is the first rate cut in decades,” said Ralston.
Earlier this month, BC Hydro implemented a financial alleviation program for anyone struggling to pay their electricity bill.
“This provides options such as deferred payments or flexible payment plans, which will help spread the cost of their electricity consumption over the coming months,” said Tanya Fish, spokesperson for BC Hydro, at CTV News Vancouver at the time.
“It just helps ease some of the financial burden some customers may face as a result of the epidemic. “
Fish said BC Hydro customers may also have access to more help through the company’s existing customer crisis fund, which is available to people who have lost their jobs, are struggling with the loss of a member family or any other life emergency that could cause difficult bills to be paid.
A US sign language translation of today’s press conference is available on the province’s YouTube page.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
With files from Jen St. Denis of CTV News Vancouver