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Relief for power bills in B.C. offered to only part of province

BC Hydro customers given break during hard times, FortisBC electricity customers only told they won’t be charged interest
BC Premier John Horgan announced BC Hydro customers in the province will get help during the hard times ahead but FortisBC electricity customers are not being offered the same bail out during the COVID-10 pandemic.

On April 1, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced relief for BC Hydro customers who are facing bills after being laid-off during the economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Giving people relief on their power bills lets them focus on the essentials, while helping businesses and encouraging critical industry to keep operating,” he said.

BC Hydro residential customers in the province who have been laid off due to the pandemic will see a credit for three times their average monthly bill and small businesses forced to close will have power bills forgiven for three months.

But a large region of the province which gets its power from FortisBC will not have the same bail out.

READ MORE: COVID-19: BC Hydro customers to get three months of bill relief

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FortisBC is the electricity provider to the tens of thousands who live and work in the Silmikameen Valley on Highway 3, the city of Kelowna, the Okanagan Valley south from Penticton, the Boundary region along the U.S. border. as well as West Kootenay communities.

“We want to make sure our customers are not worried about their FortisBC bill,” spokesperson Nicole Brown said.

FortisBC customers will still be on the hook for bills despite measures being taken to keep the lights on.

READ MORE: Quebecers urged to buy local as coronavirus crisis takes toll on economy

“We’ve adjusted our billing practices so we can do more,” she said. “We’ve discontinued our late fees for the time being and no customer will be disconnected for any financial reason.”

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Brown said they will work one-on-one with customers to help find a “billing arrangement that best suits their needs.”

Those arrangement, she said, could include a “deferral, an equal payment plan or other billing options.”

Global News inquired with the Premier’s office why FortisBC customers were left out of Wednesday’s announcement and were deferred to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

READ MORE: Canada’s carbon tax increasing April 1 despite coronavirus economic crunch

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The Ministry referred us back to FortisBC on the issue and offered no other comment.

“We’re examining all options of how we can further help our customers and look forward to learning more about the program that BC Hydro is offering,” Brown said.

Disappointed FortisBC customers took to social media to vent about the disparity.

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