Working with social service agencies in York Region and Simcoe County, PowerStream is continuing to provide comprehensive emergency financial assistance to help eligible low-income customers facing challenges in paying their electricity bills.
The Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) is a province-wide initiative offered by electric utilities and regulated by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). The program targets low-income electricity consumers in Ontario who are experiencing difficulties keeping their hydro bills current. Offered on a year-round basis or until the available funds are exhausted, LEAP is intended to supplement other existing financial support programs.
The program is delivered through designated social services agencies within PowerStream’s territory and provides a one-time annual payment of up to $500 in funding towards a customer’s electricity bill payment. Those with homes heated by electricity may be eligible for up to $600 in funding. Offering LEAP through social service agencies provides those in need with an array of other community services that are also available (i.e. employment and credit counseling, food and clothing banks).
The designated intake social service agencies within PowerStream’s service territory are the Housing Help Centre & ID Clinic for customers in York Region and the United Way of Greater Simcoe Country for PowerStream customers in Barrie and Simcoe County.
“LEAP has enabled us to broaden our reach to those in need when compared to other support programs that were previously in place,” explained Frank Scarpitti, PowerStream’s Board Chair and the Mayor of the Town of Markham. “The funding being provided though LEAP will help individuals and families who require assistance to keep their account current with us.”
Mayor Scarpitti also noted that in addition to direct monetary funding there are two other components of PowerStream’s business operations that work in conjunction with LEAP. The company offers low-income customers various energy conservation programs through its Conservation and Demand Management (CDM) department, while its Customer Service department representatives are well trained in bill payment management and can provide additional information to help any customer better manage their electricity costs.
To ensure LEAP funds support individuals in need, applications are assessed by the designated intake agencies based on criteria established by the OEB. The criteria considered includes applicants having a pre-tax income at, or below, Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Cut-off (LICO) plus 15%, confirmation of their current billing status and the ability of the applicant to keep their PowerStream account current after they receive assistance through LEAP.
Customers must directly contact the designated agencies to apply for LEAP funding. PowerStream customers living in York Region interested in applying for LEAP can call either 905-508-1877 or 1-888-447-9602. Customers living in Barrie and Simcoe County should contact 705-726-2301 (ext. 30). Each agency will review applications on a case-by-case basis to determine customers’ eligibility.
PowerStream is the second largest municipally-owned electricity distribution company in Ontario, providing service to more than 335,000 customers residing or owning a business in communities located immediately north of Toronto and in Central Ontario. The communities served include Alliston, Aurora, Barrie, Beeton, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Markham, Penetanguishene, Richmond Hill, Thornton, Tottenham and Vaughan. PowerStream is jointly owned by the City of Barrie, the City of Vaughan and the Town of Markham.