What happened: The B.C. government announced a number of measures to bring power bill relief to residents who have lost employment and businesses of all sizes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why it matters: The measures announced Wednesday will amount to an average savings of around $477 for residential customers who have lost employment. Small businesses that have had to close their doors will not have to pay their hydro bills from April to June.
The Province of B.C. is rolling out BC Hydro bill relief to residents, small businesses and large industrial operations impacted by efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Residential customers who have lost their jobs or are struggling with reduced employment will be eligible for a three-month credit from BC Hydro, worth on average $477 per customer. Small businesses that have closed their doors will not have to pay their hydro bills starting today through to the end of June.
Large industrial customers will have the option to defer 50% of their bills over the next three months.
"People are thinking about the bills they will receiving over the coming months," Premier John Horgan said on Wednesday. "That deferment will allow those businesses to continue operating."
The province also announced that the BC Utilities Commission has approved a 1% BC Hydro rate reduction that will apply to all hydro customers, effective today.
B.C. Minister of Energy Bruce Ralston said that the credit, bill forgiveness and payment deferral program will cost approximately $19 million.
"This will provide immediate relief to retail stores, restaurants, tourism, the personal services sector and other small businesses that are struggling," said Ralston.
"We want to let people know that more relief is coming."
Ralston said that B.C. residents will have the ability to apply for relief and the three-month BC Hydro credit by the end of next week. Those eligible include individuals who have been laid off, whose hours have been reduced, who are self-employed and dealing with a reduction in employment, those in quarantine and parents who are unable to work because they are caring for their children.
The value of the three-month residential credit will be three times the customer's average monthly power bill over the past 12 months.
Small businesses will be able to apply for bill forgiveness starting the week of April 14. The province expects the initiative will save eligible small businesses $363 on average.
Before Wednesday's announcement, BC Hydro residential and commercial customers could defer their bill payments or request a flexible payment plan with no penalty under the Crown corporation's COVID-19 customer assistance program.
BC Hydro was also providing grants of up to $600 to residential customers facing financial hardship and struggling to pay their bills.