(BC Hydro/Twitter)

More financial relief has been announced for residents and businesses struggling to pay bills in the wake of economic hardships induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday, Premier John Horgan and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Bruce Ralston, announced BC Hydro bill credits and deferrals for residents and businesses for the next three months.

For residents who face reduced income or loss of employment due to this pandemic will receive a three month credit on their BC Hydro bill.

According to Minister Ralston, this credit will amount to $477 for residential customers – calculated by monthly averages over the past year – and does not have to be repaid.

See also: BC Hydro will not disconnect services for non-payment in light of COVID-19

Those eligible for this credit include workers and self-employed individuals who have lost income due to illness, or taking care of family members who are ill, or are staying home to take care of children due to school or daycare closures and are unable to earn income irrespective of whether or not they qualify for Employment Insurance.

The application process is expected to open the week of Monday April 6th and will require customers to provide proof of job loss or inability to work due to COVID-19. Residential customers have until June 30, 2020, to apply for bill relief.

For small businesses, including retail stores, restaurants, tourism, personal services businesses, and others who have been forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BC Hydro is offering a three month payment holiday that takes effect the week of April 14th.

The application form for these businesses will open the week of April 13th and eligible businesses have until June 30th to apply to have their bills waived for April, May, and June.

Larger businesses for whom electricity is a major cost, like pulp and paper mills and mines, will be given the option to defer 50% of their bills for three months.

“People who have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to COVID-19 shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and paying their hydro bill,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

“These measures will also provide relief to small businesses such as restaurants and retail shops who have had to close during COVID-19, and support them in reopening once the pandemic has passed.”

In addition to these measures, the British Columbia Utilities Commission has approved an across the board 1% reduction in Hydro rates for all residents and businesses starting April 1st, 2020.

“This is the first rate decrease in decades”, said Ralston.

These measures were announced after BC Hydro issued an assurance to customers stating that they will not disconnect service for non-payment of bills at this time.

The utility also company recently launched a new COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program.

This program gives customers the option to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty by calling 1-800-224-9376 to discuss bill payment options.

Anyone who is facing temporary financial hardship due to job loss, illness, or loss of a family member can also apply for BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay bills.

See all the latest updates about the global COVID-19 pandemic on Vancouver Island

As of the time of publication, there are 1,013 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. including 67 on Vancouver Island.

In good news, a total of 507 people have now recovered from novel coronavirus in B.C. This represents an approximate 50% recovery rate.

The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19  line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.

As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 927,986.

Over 46,400 people have died from the illness and 193,474 have made a full recovery.

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