British Columbia’s natural gas utility is offering relief to residential and small businesses struggling from the economic fallout of the measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
FortisBC announced today residential customers who have lost their job, livelihood, or have been forced to take a voluntary leave can apply to have their bill payments deferred over a three-month period from April 1 to June 30, with repayment free of interest or any additional fees.
- See also:
The repayment period will be spread over 12 months, beginning July 1 to reduce the monthly impact while households are facing financial hardship.
Small businesses that have experienced less revenue can receive the same 90-day bill deferral as residential customers.
For small businesses that have been forced to close, FortisBC will provide bill credits to offset any charges to their account while they have been unable to continue operating their business.
Additionally, the company states it will consider additional one-on-one support to customers on a case-to-case basis, if they are in need of further repayment assistance. This could potentially entail extending interest-free payment arrangements, providing bill credits, or payment forgiveness.
All of these measures are in addition to the previously announced temporary suspension of late fees and service disconnections due to financial struggles. The relief also covers the utility’s propane and electricity customers.
“Since this crisis started, our customers’ safety and well-being has been our top priority. These new measures are the result of ongoing evaluation of the situation and listening to the concerns of the many customers who have reached out to us,” said Dawn Mehrer, vice president of customer service and information systems for FortisBC, in a statement.
“These conversations have been invaluable in developing an approach that provides the immediate relief customers need today and a flexible path forward that directs further support to the customers that need it most.”
The utility has indicated it will consider an extension of its deferral or recovery period beyond June, if it is required, given the uncertainty of the pandemic’s duration and the impact on the economy. While there have been staggering layoffs and business closures over the past three weeks, the COVID-19 crisis is now only just beginning.
Residential and small business customers can learn more about the relief options available and apply at FortisBC’s website.
Last week, BC Hydro also announced a number of relief measures for its residential, small business, and large business customers over the same three-month period. This includes a bill credit that does not need to be repaid for residential customers affected by labour disruptions, and forgiving the bills of struggling and closed small businesses.
Large industrial customers with BC Hydro have also been provided with an option to defer 50% of their bill payment.
Some municipal governments have already indicated they will provide some deferrals and relief for their fees enacted onto property owners.