B.C. Hydro, Fortis Energy, FortisBC customers to get some COVID-19 pandemic relief - InfoNews

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B.C. Hydro, Fortis Energy, FortisBC customers to get some COVID-19 pandemic relief

FILE. Fortis workers.
Image Credit: Contributed
April 07, 2020 - 3:17 PM

B.C. Hydro, Fortis Energy and FortisBC will now be able to provide their customers with some financial relief.

The British Columbia Utilities Commission today approved applications from Customer Relief Programs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The applications submitted by each company were reviewed in a web-based Streamlined Review Process by the utilities commission on Monday, April 6, and following the reviews, per Order G-79-20, the BCUC granted approval to B.C. Hydro for COVID-19 relief measures to its residential, and specific classes of eligible commercial and industrial customers who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in accordance with the directions in Order in Council No. 159. 

The utilities commission also granted interim approval to Fortis Energy and FortisBC to provide relief to qualifying residential and commercial customers who are impacted by COVID-19. A further public process per Order G-80-20 and Order G-81-20 has now been established to review the application.

“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,” Dawn Mehrer, Fortis's vice president of customer service and information systems, said in a press release.

“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.”

For residential customers, those who sign up for the fund will automatically have their bill payments deferred from April 1 to June 30. A repayment schedule, free of interest or any additional fees, will be set up and payments can be spread over a full year after June 30, lessening the monthly impact.

For small businesses that have been forced to close, bill credits will be issued to offset any charges to their account while they’ve been unable to continue operating their business as usual. Businesses still open, but facing a slowdown in revenue, will not receive bill credits but can also receive bill deferral for the same 90 day period as residential customers.

These measures are in addition to the previously announced suspension of late fees and stopping service disconnections for any financial reason.

In addition, BC Hydro received approval, in accordance with the directions in Order in Council No. 159, for changes to certain regulatory accounts to enable its implementation of relief measures to address customers’ concern relating to COVID-19.

It had already been announced that BC Hydro's residential customers who can’t work because of COVID-19 or have lost their jobs can apply to not pay their hydro bills for three months. The money does not have to be repaid and will average $477 for each home.

Some customers may also be eligible for B.C. Hydro's existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.

Small businesses that were forced to close because of COVID-19 can also apply to have their bills forgiven for three months – April through June. The average savings are estimated at $363 for the three months.

Hydro has also cancelled all service disconnections for non-payment during COVID-19.

This is believed to be Canada’s first ever fully digital energy regulatory hearing process.

To access B.C. Hydro's relief fund or customer assistance go here.

To enrol in the FortisBC recovery fund go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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