Small new charge on BC Hydro bills goes toward new crisis fund

The new fund aims to help customers who find themselves in financial emergencies

A tiny new charge on BC Hydro bills is turning heads, earmarked for a new crisis fund that helps British Columbians pay their utility bill in times of financial struggle.

As of June 1, B.C. residents have been charged a levy of 0.82 cents per day, plus five per cent GST.

That amounts to roughly 25 cents per month, or $3 per year.

BC Hydro says the new crisis fund, which is a three-year pilot project, was ordered and then approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC).

On March 29, BC Hydro announced a new crisis fund would be created, while it was awaiting the commission’s approval.

At the time, the Crown corporation said it would be investing $10 million towards it low income programs.

According to a BCUC report, the program was anticipated to cost $600,000 to set up, with an annual cost of $900,000 to operate.

The Crown corporation’s goal is to collect $5 million per year and dole it out to eligible customers to the tune of $600 maximum for electricity-heated homes and $500 for non-electricity-heated homes, it said on its website.

The funds will be extended to customers on a per-needs basis, but is available to all residential customers who are facing a temporary financial emergency, regardless of income or whether the person is receiving other forms of assistance.

Not everyone happy with new program

Although less than a penny per day, social media users are voicing their frustration with yet another charge in an increasingly expensive world.

According to 2016 statistics, at any one time about seven per cent of Hydro’s 1.8 million residential accounts are in arrears 30 days or greater.

Based on that, the utilities commission said it anticipates Hydro will receive 12,600 applications a year for the crisis fund, of which about 8,400 will most likely be approved.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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