Hydro One has announced a pandemic relief fund, aimed at helping customers who may be affected by the novel coronavirus.
According to a news release sent out Friday afternoon, the company — which provides power to most rural Ontario homes — said they will be offering financial assistance and payment flexibility to customers experiencing hardship caused by the disease.
“This is a difficult time for everyone and we want our customers to know that we’re here to support them,” said Mark Poweska, president and CEO of Hydro One.
Imran Merali, vice-president of customer service at Hydro One, said that the company will be asking customers who may be struggling to pay their bills to contact them directly, so the hydro company can work out a way to help them.
Merali said whether it is an extension of a payment due date, or setting up an installment payment plan, or perhaps reversing late charges, Hydro One will be prepared to work on a case-by-case basis to help customers in need of relief.
He also added that the company will be extending its winter relief program, which usually halts disconnection for those who cannot afford to pay for their hydro service over the winter months.
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As for potential service disruption if a large number of Hydro One staff were to become infected by COVID-19, Merali said the company has been working on their emergency preparedness program in case of a company-wide outbreak.
“We feel we are prepared for the pandemic to ensure light stay on in the province,” Merali said.
The Hydro One relief fund announcement comes in tandem with an announcement by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a fiscal stimulus package to be made available to Canadian financially affected by the coronavirus.
“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members,” Trudeau told reporters Friday from outside Rideau Cottage, where he and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau are self-isolating.
“We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe.”
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Friday afternoon that $10 billion would be available through the Business Development Bank of Canada and further details on the “significant stimulus package” would be unveiled next week, ahead of the March 30 federal budget.
Hydro One has set up a website for their pandemic relief fund, where customers can get more information about how to apply for the financial assistance.
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connelly and James Armstrong.