Financial assistance is available for payment of utility bills for low income families.
The Ontario Energy Board has implemented 2 financial support programs to assist low-income households with the cost of the electricity utility. These programs are, the Ontario Energy Support Program (OESP) and the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).
In order to qualify for these programs, customers must meet certain criteria as set out below.
Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) which is a new program started in January 2016 that provides low-income consumers with a monthly on-bill credit to reduce their electricity bill. It is based on household income and household size.
- Emergency financial assistance – This program provides a one-time grant towards your electricity or natural gas bill if you are temporarily unable to make ends meet in an emergency situation.
- Special rules – Utilities have to follow special rules when dealing with customers with limited finances; for example, waiving security deposits, allowing longer payment times and more.
- Utilities offer programs that can help you reduce your energy use and lower your overall household costs.
Below is a list of questions taken directly from the OEB website to help you in your decision to apply for financial assistance.
Application site: https://ontarioelectricitysupport.ca/
Ontario Energy Support Program (OESP) Details
1. Do I Qualify?
If you are a customer of an electric utility and in a lower income home, you may qualify for a reduction on your electricity bill through the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP). It’s also available to customers of unit sub-meter providers and retail energy companies. You must apply to the program.
You can apply any time as there is no deadline. Applications take about 4 to 6 weeks to process and the credits to your account appear only after all required information is signed and submitted. According the OEB, qualified individuals will received on-line credits for 2 years regardless of when a customer applies and their credits begin.
There are also 2 medical devices that will qualify an applicant for the higher level of assistance which are an oxygen concentrator and mechanical ventilators. Contact the OEB if you have further questions.
Beginning in 2016, the OESP will reduce the cost of your household electricity by applying a monthly credit directly to your bill. The amount of the credit depends on two factors:
- how many people live in the home and
- your combined household income.
For example, a home with 4 people and an annual income of $37,000 will receive an on-bill credit of $34 each month.
OESP credit amounts
LEVEL OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME ($)
NUMBER OF PEOPLE LIVING IN HOME
|Less than 28,000||$30||$30||$34||$38||$42||$50||$50|
|28,001 – 39,000||$30||$34||$38||$42||$50|
|39,001 – 48,000||$30||$34||$38|
|48,001 – 52,000||$30|
If your home is electrically heated, or you rely on medical devices requiring a lot of power, OESP offers a higher level of assistance. First Nations and Métis will also qualify for a higher level of assistance.
- Gather up the following:
- Your electricity bill
- Names and birthdates of all the residents in your home as registered with the Canada Revenue Agency
- Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), Individual Tax Numbers or temporary taxation numbers for residents over the age of 16.
- Visit our website: OntarioElectricitySupport.ca
- Complete the online application (you will see it on the home page). Print and sign the consent form and mail it to the address provided on our website.
- If you have questions you can call 1-855-831-8151 (toll free)
- Bell relay service 1-8855-1155 (TTY to TTY)
You will be notified of eligibility after your application and signed consent form have been reviewed.
If eligible, the credit will appear directly on your electricity bill in about 6 to 8 weeks from the date of approval. You will receive OESP for 2 years before having to reapply.
Note: If you have not filed an income tax return recently, or if your situation has changed since you last filed, you can apply for OESP through a local intake agency. You will need to bring all of the documents listed in Step 1 above, plus proof of your household income.
Other energy relief programs
Once you qualify for OESP, you will also be qualified to apply for these other energy relief programs:
- Special rules for low-income consumers (e.g. waiving security deposit requirements)
- Access to LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance grants, should you need them and if funds are available
Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) Details
If you qualify, you can get emergency financial help and also take advantage of special rules.
Take note, though: neither the OEB nor your local utility can offer you this help directly. You must go through one of the agencies in the OEB link below:
The following questions taken from the OEB website will help you to make the decision should you need financial assistance.
In order to qualify, you must have a family income that falls below a certain limit. Those limits are laid out in the table below.
The amount of income it takes to qualify as low-income depends on two factors:
- how many people live in the house and
- your combined household income
For example, a home with 4 people and an annual after-tax income of $37,000 would be eligible for a LEAP EFA grant.
LEAP EFA Income Eligibility Criteria
HOUSEHOLD AFTER TAX INCOME ($)
NUMBER OF PEOPLE LIVING IN HOME
|1||2||3||4||5||6||7 or more|
|Less than 28,000||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible|
|28,001 – 39,000||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible|
|39,001 – 48,000||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible|
|48,001 – 52,000||Eligible|
2. What Help is Available to Me?
Emergency Financial Assistance – Low-income customers can get up to $500 in emergency assistance for your electricity bills ($600 if your home is heated electrically) and $500 for gas bills.
The assistance is only available if you are behind on your bill – or in arrears – and may face having your service shut off (disconnected). It is for emergency situations only and is not meant to provide you with ongoing help to pay your bills.
You cannot receive more money than you owe on your bill.
3. Who Do I Contact for Help?
In order to access emergency financial assistance and special rules you must go through a social service or government agency.
Documenting Your Need
You will likely have to meet with a representative of the social agency for an interview. You will be asked to provide some paperwork, including:
- Current electricity and gas bills
- A disconnection notice, if you have received one
- A copy of a rental contract, lease or mortgage documents
- Proof of household income – cheque stub, employment letter, income tax return for adult members of household
- A copy of your most recent bank statement
Approving Your Status
The agency looking at your case will decide whether or not you qualify as low-income.
If you are accepted, your electricity or gas provider will be quickly contacted and asked to stop any further disconnection or collection activity on your account. Your energy utility will also be notified if your application is denied.
Money Does Not Change Hands
Grants are issued on behalf of customers and paid directly to the utility. You will not receive a cheque.
You can take advantage of (or qualify for) these special rules if:
- a) Your local social agency determines you meet the requirements
- b) You’ve received emergency financial assistance within the past two years (in which case you automatically qualify)
Rules for Low-Income Electricity Customers
|Security Deposits||You can ask to have your security deposit waived.|
If you previously paid a security deposit you can ask to have it back (as long as any outstanding arrears have been paid).
When your security deposit is returned, it will either be:
|Billing Errors||If the electricity utility made a mistake and overcharged you, they will refund that money by cheque immediately.|
If the electricity utility made a mistake and undercharged you, you will have to pay that money back. As a qualified low-income customer, you can pay the company back over a longer period of time than other customers.
You have 2 options:
|Equalized Billing||Equalized billing spreads your electricity payments evenly over 12 months. Equalized bills don’t rise or fall suddenly – even if your electricity usage does. Because of that, some consumers use it to help with their budget.|
As a low-income customer, you have the right to request equalized billing without paying by automatic withdrawal. Other customers who want this service are generally required to pay by automatic withdrawal.
NOTE: If you have a contract with an electricity reseller, or retailer, or if you are a customer of a unit sub-metering provider, then the rules in relation to equal billing plans do not apply.
|Disconnection Grace Period||If your social service or government agency notifies your electricity utility that you may be eligible for emergency assistance, the company must suspend that disconnection process for 21 days.|
|Arrears Payment Agreement||Eligible low-income customers are allowed more time to pay outstanding balances to their electricity utilities. Those time periods are:|
Your utility may also ask for a 10% down payment when you enter an arrears payment plan.
You are allowed to default on your payment plan twice before your low-income arrears agreement can be cancelled.
If your power has been disconnected, you will not have to pay the disconnection or reconnection fee. Non-payment fees and charges associated with any load control device installed by your utility will also be waived.
NOTE: Low-income customers are only allowed to receive these special rules after at least 12 months have passed since their last payment plan was completed. If you go on a 2nd payment plan within 12 months, it will be on same terms as all other customers.
Rules for Low-Income Natural Gas Customers
Natural gas utilities have also developed appropriate standards and policies specific to low-income natural gas customers.
For more information, consult your utility’s current Conditions of Service:
Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc.
Telephone: (416) 758-4701
Union Gas Limited
Telephone: 1-888-774-3111 (Account & Billing Inquiries)
Natural Resource Gas Limited
Telephone: (519) 773-5321 ext 211
Web link: http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/_Documents/For+Consumers/NRG_Customer_Service_Policy.pdf
Kitchener Utilities (Billing Inquiries)
Telephone: (519) 741-2450
Telephone: (613) 546-0000 (Call Centre)