As we crank up our furnaces, or wake them from hibernation, it’s good to know that there is relief for electricity costs in Ontario. No matter what your level of income, there is a program that may benefit you. Some are geared for lower incomes and at least one program is for higher incomes (which isn’t usually the case).
The thresholds are similar, though you can check out the specifics on the website for each program. If you are living alone, the income threshold for most of these programs is approximately $30,000. For two occupants, the household income threshold is around $40,000, three occupants is just over $50,000, and four occupants is approximately $60,000.
For low income earners under those thresholds, there are at least three programs to look into.
First, the Ontario Electricity Support Program at 1-855-831-8151 or https://ontarioelectricitysupport.ca/. If you qualify, they apply a monthly credit to directly offset part of your electricity bill. According to the service agent I spoke to on the telephone, people can save up to $100 per month on their electricity bill. The credit amount depends on how many people live in the home and the combined household income.
The Home Assistance Program 1-855-591-0877 or https://saveonenergy.ca/en/For-Your-Home/Home-Assistance-Program offers free energy-efficiency upgrades for income-eligible homeowners and tenants, from ENERGY STAR®-certified LED light bulbs to an energy-efficient refrigerator, weather stripping to additional attic and basement insulation.
There is also the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program at 1-877-632-2727 or https://www.oeb.ca/rates-and-your-bill/help-low-income-consumers/low-income-energy-assistance-program. They can help low-income customers can get up to $600 in emergency assistance for their electricity bills if behind on their bill (in arrears).
A couple years back, while I would have easily considered myself part of the working poor, I may not have qualified for these low income programs. Luckily, the AffordAbility Fund, appears to be able to help almost anyone. Your household income has to be above the thresholds for the low income geared programs.
There are three levels of eligibility. At a minimum, at Level 1, you will get a kit including ENERGY STAR® light bulbs, a power bar and/or faucet aerators along with energy-saving tips, for free. If your energy bills are higher, you may qualify for Level 2, and you’ll get an in-home audit. Based on that consultation, the program may upgrade your home with new ENERGY STAR® appliances! (You did not read that wrong – who doesn’t want a new fridge?) For Level 3, if your house is heated by baseboard heat, you may be given upgrades including insulation and/or an ENERGY STAR® heat pump after an in-house visit.
My telephone call to the AffordAbility Fund at 1-855-494-3863 took less than five minutes. Though it may have been faster had I had my PUC account number handy, as well as my annual income, and average utility bill. I’m now waiting three to six weeks for someone from the PUC to contact me to tell me what level I’m eligible for. It is also possible to go online to apply at https://www.affordabilityfund.org.
I applaud the initiative such that Ontarians who do not qualify for low-income conservation programs now have the AffordAbility Fund, but shouldn’t there be a cap on annual income for the program? Even someone making $5 million a year, living in a palatial (but drafty) mansion would be eligible for the program.
Regardless, I’m jumping on this while there are still funds available and they haven’t yet met their goal to benefit 50,000 households.