COVID-19 Relief Fund: BC Hydro consumers can receive a 3-month bill credit
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us in more ways than we could have imagined, from overwhelmed hospitals to economies all over the world slowing down. Fortunately, Canadian provinces are taking steps to ensure that residents won’t be left without essential services, such as utilities. In British Columbia, BC Hydro has announced the COVID-19 Relief Fund, which will allow eligible residential customers and small business customers to receive three months of credit on their BC Hydro bill that doesn’t need to be paid back.
Similarly, Alberta has announced a 90-day utility payment deferral program to help Albertans who are having trouble paying their natural gas and electricity bills while the municipality of Toronto, Ontario announced a 60-day grace period for property taxes and utility bills dated as of March 16th.
What is the COVID-19 Relief Fund?
The COVID-19 Relief Fund was introduced by BC Hydro to assist its customers that are unable to work with paying their hydro bills. If approved, customers will receive a one-time bill credit equivalent to 3 times the amount of their average monthly bill amount. This credit doesn’t need to be paid back.
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 Relief Fund from BC Hydro?
Residential and small business customers are both potentially eligible for the COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Residential consumers are eligible if they meet the below criteria:
- You need to be a residential account holder and have had your account as of March 31, 2020.
- Your account must be on a residential rate, which includes rate schedules: 1101, 1105, 1107, 1121, 1127, 1148, 1151 and 1161.
- You need to be eligible for Employment Insurance, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers (when it becomes available).
- You or your spouse/partner have stopped working due to COVID-19
- You must be able to upload a document that proves your eligibility.
- Your average monthly electricity consumption must not exceed 2,500 kWh.
Small business customers are eligible if they meet the below criteria:
- You need to be a business account holder and have had your account before March 31, 2020.
- Your account must be on the Small General Service (SGS) rate, which includes rate schedules: 1300, 1301, 1310, 1311, 1234 and 1205 (exclusions apply, see below).
- You have closed your business, ceased most operations, and are not earning any revenue due to a government order or because of a reduction in business due to COVID-19.
- You must upload information to demonstrate that your business is closed, such a photo of the business being closed, a screenshot of the closure message on your business’ website or social media channel, or a customer notification email or text message.
Small business customers that aren’t eligible for the COVID-19 Relief Fund include but aren’t limited to:
- Government agencies or publicly funded organizations.
- Public and private schools (including post-secondary).
- Stratas (commercial and residential common use areas).
- Churches or other religious venues.
- Outdoor/street lighting and telecom equipment.
- Unmetered services.
- Companies managed by BC Hydro Key Account Managers.
- Companies that have more than 10 General Service accounts.
Where do I apply for the COVID-19 Relief Fund?
What if I’m ineligible for the COVID-19 Relief Fund?
If you are ineligible for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, there are still options such as the Customer Crisis program or arranging a flexible payment plan. You can call BC Hydro at 1-800-224-9376 for the COVID-19 Customer Assistance program.
For medium and large business customers, interest-free bill deferrals and payment plans may be available. You can learn more by calling the BC Hydro customer service team at 1-800-224-9376.
Industrial business customers may be eligible up to 50% of electricity use charges for 3 months – you can learn more by visiting the BC Hydro website and speaking to your Key Account Manager. Note that deferred amounts will need to be repaid with interest.
What are other ways I can reduce my electric bill?
If you’re not eligible for the COVID-19 Relief Fund or if you predict that the COVID-19 Relief Fund won’t cover all of your electricity costs, here are a few ways to keep your hydro bill down:
- If you live in Ontario, pay attention to the times of day you use electricity the most and aim to use electricity during off-peak hours as much as possible.
- Unplug appliances that aren’t currently in use.
- Wash and dry only full loads of laundry. Compare electricity and natural gas rates in your area to find the best one with free cost comparison tools such as EnergyRates.ca.
- Here are 35 energy-efficient tips that will cut your energy costs.