The Ontario government plans to offer low hydro rates over the next three weeks as the province remains in lockdown measures.

Starting on January 18, electricity prices for tiered and time-of-use residential customers, small businesses and farms will be set at the current off-peak rate of 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for 24 hours a day, which is less than half of the cost of the current on-peak rate.

“We know that spending more time at home means using more electricity during the day when prices are higher, that’s why we are moving to off-peak electricity rates 24 hours per day, seven days a week,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Energy.

Ontario’s typical off-peak rate, in effect between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays, is typically 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Ontario’s standard on-peak rate is listed at 21.7 cents per hour.

“The off-peak rate will provide immediate savings for families, small businesses and farms as all Ontarians work together to slow the spread of the Omicron variant,” adds Smith.

On top of the new electricity rates, the government is also introducing a new COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant, which can provide eligible small businesses with a $10,000 grant.

“Our government continues to step up with programs that provide critical relief for the north as we have been hit hard by the Omicron variant and a harsh winter,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry.

“Stabilizing electricity rates will put more money in the pockets of families and businesses across the north to help get us through the next few weeks.”

Eligible businesses include:

- Restaurants and bars,
- Facilities for indoor sports and recreational fitness activities,
- Performing arts and cinemas,
- Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites,
- Meeting and event spaces,
- Tour and guide services,
- Conference centres and convention centres,
- Driving instruction for individuals,
- Before and after school programs.

Ontario says eligible businesses that qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant that are subject to closure under the modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen will be pre-screened to verify eligibility, and will not need to apply to the new program.

Ontario says newly established and newly eligible small businesses will need to apply once the application portal opens in the coming weeks, and small businesses can expect to receive their $10,000 payment in February.

“Small businesses, job creators and the entrepreneurial spirit are the backbone of Ontario’s economy. Unfortunately, these businesses have been some of the most impacted by COVID-19, and many continue to struggle,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

As well, online applications for Ontario’s Business Costs Rebate Program opens on January 18. The program will provide eligible businesses that are required to close or reduce capacity with rebate payments for up to 100 per cent of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to public health measures.

Eligible businesses required to close for indoor activities, such as restaurants and gyms, will receive a rebate of 100 per cent of their costs. Those required to reduce their capacity to 50 per cent, such as retail stores, will receive a 50 per cent rebate.

Ontario is set to remain in Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen until January 26 at the earliest.