TORONTO, Sept. 5, 2012 /CNW/ - According to the City of Toronto, there are about 370,000 people considered 'low-income'1 living in the city. Sometimes, despite best efforts, making a payment to Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited (Toronto Hydro) means not making a payment somewhere else. To help with this problem, a program called the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) was developed by the Ontario Energy Board. Toronto Hydro offers this program year-round to provide one-time emergency relief to eligible low-income customers who are experiencing difficulty paying already 'past due' bills.
The challenges are many. In addition to language barriers for some customers, those who are behind on payments are often embarrassed, even though many find themselves behind on payments due to life changes beyond their control, such as illness or job loss.
In a warm and dimly lit apartment, Patricia* a mom of three children, tries her best to conserve electricity to keep her bills down. "When I first moved here I expected bills to be similar to my old place. We're trying to reduce what we use by turning off lights and only using the air conditioner when it's really hot, but sometimes the bills are still too high." After falling behind on some payments, Patricia asked for help. "I spoke with a Toronto Hydro representative, and they offered support from the LEAP program. Thankfully it helped and I hope more people take advantage of this."
Toronto Hydro will provide both written and verbal notifications of arrears, but unless the customer asks for help the end result could be disconnection of the electricity service. Disconnection is always the last resort. Often, payment plans can be arranged and customer care representatives provide information on the LEAP program, which is confidential and delivered in Toronto through the Neighbourhood Information Post.
From January 1 to July 31, 2012, LEAP has assisted 855 low-income households in Toronto, at an average payout of approximately $400 per household.
"It was hard for me to admit that I needed help. But the grant helped my family and I through a difficult time and I want people to know that they shouldn't be embarrassed to ask for help. These funds are there for a reason." -- Patricia, a Toronto Hydro customer
"We want to let customers know that these funds are available year-round to help cover their electricity costs. We've seen the difference these grants can make to households struggling financially and we want to make sure that all eligible customers are benefiting from this important program." -- Blair Peberdy, Vice President, Public Affairs, Toronto Hydro
1 Profile of Low Income in the City of Toronto, City of Toronto Social development, Finance and Administration, 2010 report
*name has been changed for privacy reasons
- LEAP is delivered in Toronto through Neighbourhood Information Post, a local social service agency. If you are a Toronto Hydro customer in need of assistance or if you have specific questions about LEAP, please visit www.torontohydro.com/leap
- LEAP is funded in Toronto through Toronto Hydro's rates and provides eligible customers with a financial assistance grant of up to a maximum of $500 per year. It is not intended to provide regular or ongoing bill payment assistance.
- This grant is available to low-income residents who meet program criteria and who have: recently received a 'past due' Toronto Hydro bill and/or; recently received a disconnection notice from Toronto Hydro.
About Toronto Hydro
The principal business of the Corporation and its subsidiaries is the distribution of electricity by Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited. Toronto Hydro-Electric System owns and operates an electricity distribution system, which delivers electricity to approximately 712,000 customers located in the City of Toronto. It is the largest municipal electricity distribution company in Canada and distributes approximately 18% of the electricity consumed in the Province of Ontario.
Image with caption: "Patricia*, a Toronto Hydro customer and mom of three children, tries her best to conserve electricity to keep her bills down. She took advantage of the LEAP program to help with hydro bills. (CNW Group/Toronto Hydro Corporation)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120905_C2954_PHOTO_EN_17460.jpg
SOURCE: Toronto Hydro Corporation
For further information:
Tanya Bruckmueller, Toronto Hydro-Electric System