By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation (OPUC) is looking to help Oshawa residents ahead of the disconnection moratorium which is scheduled to end at the end of this month.
OPUC President Ivano Labricciosa says there has been an increase in calls from worried customers, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also because Oshawa Power is asking for customers to reach out.
“We are really encouraging people to give us a call and we’ll work with them,” says Labricciosa.
Customer disconnections were suspended when the pandemic began, however the temporary halt will be coming to an end on July 31, 2020.
“We’re hopeful that the program will continue given that we’re still slowly coming out of COVID, but we’re not waiting,” says Labricciosa. “We realize people are having difficulties, so we’ve decide to get out in front and work with people to continue to make things easier where we can for them,” he adds.
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) extended the winter ban on electricity disconnections for non-payment by residential customers on March 19, 2020 due to the pandemic. The disconnection ban was originally scheduled to end on April 30, 2020.
Labricciosa says there are programs available to assist customers who may be having a difficult time paying their bills, one of which is the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP).
CEAP, a one-time, on-bill credit for eligible consumers provides $9 million from the provincial government to support residential customers struggling to pay their bills as a result of the pandemic. CEAP applications opened on July 13.
The Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) provides consumers with a one-time payment on their account to pay arrears to avoid disconnection, and is available for consumers once every 12 months. Application submissions for LEAP will begin after July 31, 2020.
The Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) is an on-bill monthly credit that depends on the size of the family and income, and can range from $35 to $75 per month. The credit is active for two years for non-senior consumers and five years for seniors before needing to reapply.
The Housing Assistance Program (HAP) is geared towards lowering consumption and offers free energy assessments and upgrades to the customer’s home to help lower the hydro bill.
Lastly, the AffordAbility Fund Trust (AFT) is available for those customers who do not qualify for low-income assistance programs and is geared towards assisting consumers with energy saving upgrades for their homes that in turn save on consumption on their hydro bill.
“Disconnecting an account for non-payment is a last resort. It is an option that we would prefer not to use,” says Labricciosa. “It is far more productive and less costly to work with our customers to find assistance or arrangements that work for them,” he adds.
Residents who require financial assistance, arrangements or advice on their hydro accounts should connect with OPUC to schedule an appointment as Labricciosa says each situation is “different and unique.” Residents can send an email to email@example.com, or fill out an online form on the OPUC website at www.opuc.on.ca/contact-us.
For more information on available assistance programs, visit www.opuc.on.ca/covid-19-update-july-7-2020/
“We are here to assist our customers and we want to remove the unnecessary stress of having to worry about how they are going to pay their bill,” Labricciosa continues. “I encourage anybody who has fallen behind or is struggling to make payments to reach out to our team. We will find a solution. By working together, we can make paying your hydro bill one less thing to worry about.”