Ontarians who find themselves spending more time at home amid the latest provincial lockdown will at least get a break on their electricity bills.
The Ford government has announced that it will lower the cost of electricity to the current off-peak rate of 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for 21 days starting on Jan. 18.
The decision to delay the introduction of the savings until the day after schools are supposed to resume in-person learning is due to the need to give local utilities time to implement the change, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy tells CP24.
The government says that once introduced, the reduced rate, which is less than half the cost of the current daytime rate, will be in effect 24 hours a day and will be applied automatically to residential accounts, as well as those belonging to small businesses and farms.
The Ontario government also lowered electricity rates to the off-peak rate during the second wave of the pandemic last winter but did not do so during the third wave of the pandemic in April.
Its decision to revive the flat-rate pricing now is part of a wider series of initiatives announced by the Ford government on Friday to support businesses and individuals through the latest mandatory closures, which will be in effect until at least Jan. 27.
The province is also committing to providing eligible small businesses subject to closure with a one-time grant of $10,000 to help them cover the costs. Small businesses are defined as any business with fewer than 100 employees.
“This is just another tool in our toolkit,” Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy said of the grants during an interview with CP24 on Friday. “We also announced the property tax (deferments) and electricity which are important cost inputs as well to businesses that are closed as a result of restrictions we have to blunt the spread of Omicron.”
Eligible businesses for the new $10,000 grant include gyms, museums, theatres and bars and restaurants.
However, the grant will not apply to other businesses, such as retail stores, that have been permitted to remain open at 50 per cent capacity.
The government has said that any business that received funds from the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program during earlier waves of the pandemic will not have to reapply ands can expect to receive funds in February should they qualify for the support.
“This is certainly not enough, but it is good news,” Dan Kelly, who is the president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told CP24 on Friday. “The $10,000 will be a big help to a lot of businesses facing another round of lock downs in specific sectors but there are tonnes of businesses that are subjected to 50 per cent capacity restrictions (who won’t qualify) as well others like a supplier to the restaurant industry whose business will probably ground to zero over the next little while. The list goes on and on and on.”