Province offering relief on power bills during COVID-19
The Government of British Columbia and BC Hydro are helping people, small businesses and industries most impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. People are out of work, and businesses are facing tough choices about whether they can stay open,” said Premier John Horgan. “Giving people relief on their power bills lets them focus on the essentials, while helping businesses and encouraging critical industry to keep operating.”
BC Hydro will offer new, targeted bill relief to provide immediate help to those most in need.
Residential customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 will receive a credit to help cover the cost of their electricity bills. The credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the past year at their home and does not have to be repaid.
Small businesses that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months. BC Hydro is waiving bills for these customers from April to June 2020.
Major industries, like pulp and paper mills and mines, will have the opportunity to defer 50% of their bill payments for three months.
“People who have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to COVID-19 shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and paying their hydro bill,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. “These measures will also provide relief to small businesses such as restaurants and retail shops who have had to close during COVID-19, and support them in reopening once the pandemic has passed.”
In addition to this new targeted bill relief, BC Hydro rates will be reduced by one per cent on April 1, 2020, after the B.C. Utilities Commission provided interim approval of the application BC Hydro submitted last August. This is the first rate decrease in decades.
“We recognize the financial stress many of our customers are facing after losing their job or having to close their business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chris O’Riley, president and chief executive officer, BC Hydro. “We hope that not having to worry about their electricity costs for a few months will help provide some temporary relief during these challenging times.”
On March 13, 2020, BC Hydro introduced its COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program to provide residential and commercial customers with the option to defer payments or arrange a flexible payment plan to help pay their BC Hydro bills.
The average residential customer’s bill is $159 per month, so the average credit provided will be $477. Some customers may also be eligible for BC Hydro’s existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.
The average bill savings for small businesses who qualify will be $121 per month, so the average total bill savings will be $363.
BC Hydro has halted all service disconnections for non-payment during COVID-19 and cancelled all non-emergency planned power outages affecting its customers.
The province’s COVID-19 Action Plan includes a new BC Emergency Benefit for Workers that will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to workers whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak that will add to benefits that are received under federal supports.
The Government of B.C. is also providing support for businesses through a 50% cut in school property taxes this year and allowing deferrals of a range of tax remittances that complement federal measures like the wage subsidy and interest-free loans.