New Westminster offers further relief for electrical utility customers

The City of New Westminster is taking further action to help people who are having trouble paying their electric utility bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19, New Westminster city council and the New Westminster Utility Commission introduced COVID-19 customer relief to help residential and commercial customers experiencing financial hardship during the Coronavirus outbreak, by giving them the ability to defer bill payments or to arrange for flexible payment plans. On April 1, BC Hydro announced a COVID-19 Relief Fund that allows residential customers who have lost their job or are unable to work to apply to receive a one-time bill credit of three times their average monthly bill amount and gives small business customers that have had to close their business the ability to apply to have their electricity costs waived for up to three months.

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Some local customers contacted the Record to inquire why the City of New Westminster wasn’t offering credits similar to those being offered by BC Hydro, instead of just allowing them to defer payments or arrange for flexible payment plans. Last week, city officials told the Record they were reviewing the matter, having learned of BC Hydro’s relief fund only announcing the city’s deferment options and flexible payment plans.

After considering the matter further, city council and the utility commission have announced additional COVID-19 customer relief measures to help residential and small commercial customers who are experiencing financial hardship during the Coronavirus outbreak.

“We recognize this is very challenging time for many families and businesses in our community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said in a news release “The City of New Westminster is committed to supporting our residents and local businesses, and we hope that we can provide some financial relief for those who need it by waiving electric utility bill payments for the next few months.”

In addition to allowing customers the option to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans, new relief measures will include the following:

* Reduce all electric utility bills by 1% for the remainder of the year for all New Westminster Electric Utility customers.

* Bill credit for up to three months for all eligible residential customers who have been laid off, unable to work or have closed their businesses (application required).

* Waive up to three months for all eligible small business customers who have closed their business and ceased operations due to a government order or because of a reduction in business on or after March 15 due to COVID-19 (application required).

More details about the relief plan, including eligibility requirements, will be posted over the coming days on the city’s website at www.newwestcity.ca. The city anticipates that application documents will be available online starting the week of April 20.

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