Fund extended for BC Hydro customers in financial crisis
The province is extending BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund (CCF) to continue providing support for people in financial crisis and help avoid disconnections of their electricity service.
The CCF program allows eligible BC Hydro customers who are facing a financial hardship due to a job loss, injury, illness or loss of a family member, and possible disconnection of their service, to access grants of up to $600 to pay their BC Hydro bill. A pilot of the CCF program ended on May 31, at the expiration of its three-year term.
“We recognize there will be times when people may need some financial assistance to catch up on their hydro bill. As many families struggle to recover from the impacts and stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, that time is now,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “By extending BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund, we are preventing disconnections, helping families get back on their feet and making life more affordable for British Columbians.”
Since it was launched, the CCF has helped over 11,000 residential customers.
“I am pleased that the province has followed through on its recent promise to step in by temporarily reviving BC Hydro’s CCF program while it decides how best to address energy affordability going forward,” said Leigha Worth, executive director and senior counsel for the British Columbia Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC). “BCPIAC has advocated for safe, reliable and affordable energy for over 40 years, but we cannot achieve this on our own so we stand ready to work with both government and utilities like BC Hydro to make sure energy is affordable and accessible for everyone in British Columbia.”
Government has issued a direction to the B.C. Utilities Commission to enable BC Hydro to continue offering grants through the CCF.
“When family budgets are squeezed, even a small setback can send people into a spiral of increasing hardship,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Over the past three years, the Customer Crisis Fund program has assisted thousands of BC Hydro residential customers facing a financial crisis and unable to pay their power bills. Extending the program will ensure support continues to be available to help people get back on track as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The CCF pilot program was funded by a monthly charge (rate rider) of 13 cents that was added to residential customers’ bills. The temporary continuation of the CCF will be funded through an existing surplus of approximately $5.9 million that represents the difference between revenues already collected through the monthly customer charge and the costs of providing the program. BC Hydro stopped applying the rate rider to customers’ bills effective June 1.
In a survey conducted for BC Hydro as part of its evaluation of the CCF pilot program, over 70% of BC Hydro residential customers expressed support for the CCF.