Epcor will begin providing relief to customers struggling to pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Residential and small business customers who face difficulties paying their utility bills may defer them for up to 90 days.
Customers can begin requesting three-month deferrals beginning next week, Stuart Lee, Epcor president and CEO, said in an interview Thursday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
All customers are eligible to apply for the grace period, he said. The company will not disconnect customers who are in arrears.
The three-month deferrals will be penalty- and interest-free. When the financial impact of the pandemic becomes less acute, customers will be asked to pay the balance.
“The expectation is that this is a bridge to help them get back on their feet,” Lee said.
“So they will eventually be asked to pay that off but we’ll set up flexible payment arrangements to give them time to do that.”
Customers who expect to have difficulty paying their bills are encouraged to call Epcor at 310-4300. Due to the expected influx of calls, the company is asking customers with concerns to delay calling until next week.
Epcor’s decision to defer payments is in line with a larger financial relief strategy announced Wednesday by Premier Jason Kenney that included extension of tax deadlines, loan payment deferrals and more capital for small business owners.
“We are facing a period of profound adversity,” Kenney told the legislature. “We are prepared to do what it takes to offer a lifeline of hope for families and businesses who are and will be feeling extreme financial distress.”
Residential, farm, and small commercial customers will be allowed to defer payments on their electricity and natural gas bills for the next three months, regardless of the service provider.
The compensation package also includes cash payments to help people in isolation without income pay their bills while they wait for new emergency federal benefits to kick in on April 1. Payments of $573 per week will go to each person who meets the criteria for self-isolation.
Corporate income taxes will be deferred until Aug. 31, which is expected to give businesses a $1.5-billion reprieve, Kenney said.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said Wednesday the city is working through details of a tax-deferral plan in co-ordination with the City of Calgary, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the provincial government.