Programs to provide COVID-19 relief include supports to help pay energy bills … here’s a look at options

While researching a program to assist low-income households pay water/wastewater bills, City staff presented a number of existing options as examples.

When reviewing programs to assist low-income households pay their water/wastewater bills and develop a local option, City staff presented members of council with a list of available resources.
“Research has been undertaken on various programs currently in existence for the purpose of assisting low-income households with other utilities as well as water/wastewater. There are several variations on the process for determining who may be eligible for assistance, and the documentation requirements,” according to a staff report. Those are:
• City of Barrie RecACCESS Program: This is a fee-assistance program that provides support to low-income families and individuals. The eligibility criterion in determining low-income thresholds is based on the Low Income Cut Off table (LICO) produced annually by the federal government. Documentation required as part of the application process includes proof of residency, family income, and eligible dependents.
Ontario Energy Board Support Program (OESP): This program provides support to lower-income customers by reducing the cost of household electricity bills by applying a monthly credit directly to bills. As explained on the Ontario Electricity Support website, the eligibility criteria is determined by using the last federal income tax assessment notice and picking up line 23600 (Net Income). The net income number is then multiplied by 87.82% with the result being used to determine eligibility.
Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP): This program provides emergency financial help for low-income households who are behind on their electricity or natural gas bill. Low-income customers can get up to $500 in emergency assistance for their electricity bills (or $600 for homes heated electrically) and $500 for their natural gas bills, based on their arrears amounts. Qualifying for this program involves meeting with a social agency, which will typically charge an administration fee to review various documents including proof of income. Household income must fall below a certain limit and is based on the number of people living in the house and the household combined family income.
COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program – Residential (CEAP): This program provides an on-bill credit to eligible residential electricity and natural gas customers to assist them in catching up on their energy bills and resuming regular payments. The maximum amount of support is $750 for both energy types combined and applies to those customers who have had overdue amounts on one or more energy bills since March 17, 2020. Applications are completed through individual utility providers, however, submitting an application does not guarantee funding as the program’s funding is limited by the Province which provided $9 million in the summer of 2020 and an additional $23 million in March 2021 to support both residential and small business customers.