BC Hydro is rolling out a three-month relief package for customers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier John Horgan, along with Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon.
Described as a “comprehensive, targeted program,” the relief plan is available to homeowners, small businesses, and larger industrial businesses.
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Residential customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to coronavirus will receive a bill credit equal to three times their monthly bill.
Ralston said that this will save customers an average of $477 and adds that this bill credit does not have to be repaid.
Small businesses will have their power bills forgiven for three months, between April to June of 2020. This “payment holiday” is meant to provide relief to retail stores, restaurants, tourism, and other small businesses that are struggling during the pandemic.
Large industrial customers are also being given the option to defer 50% of their bill payment over the next three months. Ralston adds, however, that interest will be applied should this option be taken.
The credit for residential customers combined with the “payment holiday” for small business owners is estimated to cost BC Hydro between $80 to $90 million.
All customers will have until June 30, 2020, to apply for these programs.
The BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) also approved a 1% rate reduction to all customer classes. Although the rate drop was approved today, Horgan notes that this is independent of the coronavirus pandemic. The application was made to the BCUC in August of 2019.
In March, BC Hydro also introduced a COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program to help any customers who were going through financial hardships, allowing them payment deferrals or flexible payment plans with no penalty.
BC Hydro customers were also told that they may apply for the Customer Crisis Fund, which provides grants of up to $600 to pay bills.
Earlier this morning, the provincial government also launched the COVID-19 Supply Hub — a partnership with the Digital Technology Supercluster and the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC).
The made-in-BC platform was created to coordinate, source, and expedite medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for provincial health authorities.
As of the latest update on Tuesday afternoon, there are 1,013 known cases of coronavirus in the province. The death toll currently sits at 24 and of the total number of cases, 128 individuals are in hospital.
Fortunately, 507 people have fully recovered.
With files from Eric Zimmer.