Some northern Ontario residents say it's far too complicated to apply for a new hydro tax credit.

Only a fraction — about seven per cent — of the half-million eligible Ontarians have applied.

The Ontario Electricity Support Program is meant to help low income people pay some of their electricity bill, and is touted to save families between $30 and $75 a month.

Customers can apply for the program through their electricity supplier. So far, only 300 customers have applied through Greater Sudbury Utilities, according to the Ontario Energy Board.

Fewer than 10,000 people in the entire province have applied through Hydro One.

But thousands across the northeast are still eligible.

Mattawa resident Felicity Thompson tried to apply. She was told an application would be mailed to her. But after weeks with nothing in the mail, she called back, and asked if she could apply in person.

"And she gave me a place to go in Wawa" — seven hours away.

"I kind of laughed. I'm like, where are you sitting? In some little office down in Toronto? Just because I'm in the north, you're going to send me to Wawa?"

Thompson said she felt like she was being excluded from a program that can help her, and noted her experience is likely why the program has such little uptake.

"I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gone through all this rigamarole," she said.

"I was told they were so overwhelmed and due to so many people applying I would have to wait an additional three weeks [to receive an application]."

Tweaking the process

Ontario Energy Board spokesperson Brian Hewson said the board is now working with several groups in northern Ontario so people in remote areas can apply by phone.

"It's like any process, there are things that we've been working through as things started up," he said.

"Some agencies are going to be able to offer a remote application process."

Hewson said it takes two to three months to have the rebate applied to your bill.

There is no guarantee that all applicants will receive a rebate.

Eligibility is based on household income along with the number of people living in the home.

Sudbury resident Sandy Blake said she tried to apply, but made about $3,000 too much to qualify for a family of two.

Blake said if she had one more child living in the home, she would have been eligible.

"Why would the family of seven be offered the rebate and not a family of two? It's the same amount of electricity, maybe a bit of a difference."

Hewson said hydro bills do increase with more occupants — and the funding formula is designed to help people in most need.

A total of 2,400 people have been approved in Ontario for this credit, Hewson said. Another 40,000 people have completed the application and the board is in process of verifying those applications.

Intake Agencies (Sudbury and area — west to Espanola, east to North Bay, south to Manitoulin) 

All agencies do in-person intake and can also do remote applications (via phone) where individual is unable to make it in person (e.g. disability, transportation / distance).

  • Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board  Warren
  • Canadian Red Cross Society - Sudbury Branch
  • Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board  Espanola
  • Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board  Noelville
  • Low Income People Involvement of Nipissing Inc. (North Bay)
  • Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board - Little Current

First Nations:

  • Whitefish River First Nation (intake agency)
  • Ontario Native Welfare Administrators' Association for First Nations communities (both in person and remote applications)

Source: Ontario Energy Board