Slow uptake for Ontario program that lowers electricity bills up to $50 a month

TORONTO – Only about seven per cent of eligible families have applied for a program that starts in the new year to help low-income Ontarians pay their electricity bills.

About 34,000 of 500,000 eligible households have applied for assistance under the Ontario Electricity Support Program, which will provide ongoing rate reduction directly on hydro bills.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli expects more people will sign up for the reduced electricity bills once they learn about it, and promises more advertising and public awareness campaigns.

Only the very lowest income families will actually get the maximum $50 reduction on their electricity bill each month: a family six must have a family income under $28,000 to qualify.

The Progressive Conservatives say the government is collecting $145 million from other ratepayers to cover the cost of the support program, and wants to make sure any money that isn’t used doesn’t go into general revenues.

PC Leader Patrick Brown says there’s significant anger and frustration around the province about overbilling for electricity, and wants the Liberal government to make sure more people apply for the support program.

The fixed monthly credit will be based on household income and household size, and people who rely on electric heating or certain medical devices are also eligible.

The government says people can apply at any time, and eligibility will be two years for most customers, or five years for applicants who are 65 or older or who receive a CPP disability pension.

They must apply for the hydro support program because it is being delivered by local electricity distribution companies, which do not have information on household size or access to income tax records.

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