Low-income Energy Assistance Program

If you’re behind on your electricity or natural gas bill and face having your service disconnected, you may qualify for emergency financial help through the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP). There are also special customer service rules available for low-income households. You need to meet certain criteria to qualify for these programs, and must go through one of the intake agencies in Ontario listed below.

View the list of agencies that offer LEAP

Do you qualify?

In order to qualify, your household income has to fall below a certain limit. The amount of income it takes to qualify depends on two factors:

  • How many people live in the house
  • Your combined household income

For example, a home with four people and an annual after-tax income of $37,000 would be eligible for a LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) grant. This chart shows if you are eligible.

LEAP EFA income eligibility criteria

Household after tax income ($) Number of people living in home
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Less than 28,000
28,001 - 39,000    
39,001 - 48,000        
48,001 - 52,000            

What help is available?

Emergency Financial Assistance

Low-income customers can get up to $500 in emergency assistance for their electricity bills ($600 if your home is heated electrically) and $500 for their natural gas bills.

The assistance is only available if you are behind on your bill – or in arrearsand may face having your service disconnected. You cannot receive more money than you owe on your bill.Therefore, you may not receive the full amount of the grant.

Emergency financial assistance is for emergency situations only and is not meant to provide you with ongoing help to pay your bills.

Step 1: Collecting your paperwork  

You will likely have to meet with a representative of the social agency for an interview.  

View the list of social service agencies

You will be asked to provide:

  • Identification
  • Current electricity and gas bills
  • A disconnection notice, if you have received one
  • A copy of a rental contract, lease or mortgage documents
  • Proof of household income – cheque stub, employment letter, income tax return for adult members of household
  • A copy of your most recent bank statement

Step 2: Approving your status

The agency looking at your case will decide whether or not you qualify as low-income. As part of this process, the agency will contact your electricity or natural gas provider and ask them to pause any further disconnection or collection activity on your account until a decision is made. Your utility will also be notified if your application is denied.

NOTE: Emergency financial assistance is provided on a first-come first-served basis. Funds may be limited. Grants are issued on your behalf and paid directly to your utility. You will not receive a cheque.  

Special rules for eligible low-income customers

You can take advantage of (or qualify for) these special rules if:

  • You’ve received LEAP emergency financial assistance within the past two years, or
  • You are receiving assistance under the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP).
  • If you qualify, you should let your local utility or unit sub-meter provider know that you want to take advantage of the special rules for low-income customers.

Electricity

Electricity utilities and unit sub-meter providers have to follow special rules when dealing with low-income customers; for example, waiving security deposits and allowing longer payment times under arrears payment plans. 

Security deposits

You can ask to have your security deposit waived by your electricity utility or unit sub-meter provider.

 

If you previously paid a security deposit you can ask to have it back (as long as any outstanding arrears have been paid).

 

When your security deposit is returned, it will either be:

  • Credited to your account with the utility or unit sub-meter provider if it's less than your average monthly bill
  • Refunded by cheque if it's more than your average monthly bill
Billing errors

If the electricity utility made a mistake and overcharged you, they have to tell you. You will then have 10 days to request a cheque or they will apply the amount as a credit to your electricity bill.

 

If the electricity utility made a mistake and undercharged you, you will have to pay that money back. As an eligible low-income customer, you can pay the utility back over a longer period of time than other customers. Note: if you are a customer of a unit sub-meter provider, then the special rules regarding billing errors do not apply.

 

You have 2 options:

You can pay it back over the same time frame as you were under-charged, up to a maximum of 2 years. For example, if you were undercharged for 3 months, you have 3 months to pay back your utility.

 

Or you can pay it back over:

  • 10 months if you owe an amount less than twice your average monthly bill
  • 20 months if you owe an amount more than twice your average monthly bill
Disconnection grace period If your LEAP intake agency notifies your electricity utility or unit sub-meter provider that you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance, they must suspend any disconnection process for a maximum of 21 days from the notification date.
Arrears payment agreement

Eligible low-income customers that enter into an arrears payment agreement are allowed more time to pay outstanding balances to their electricity utility or unit sub-meter provider. Those time periods are:

  • at least 8 months if you owe an amount less than twice your average monthly bill
  • at least 12 months if you owe more than twice your average monthly bill but less than five times your average monthly bill
  • at least 16 months if you owe more than 5 times your average monthly bill

Your utility or unit sub-meter provider may also ask for a 10% down payment when you enter an arrears payment plan.

 

If you default on your arrears payment agreement or regular bill payment more than twice, your utility or unit sub-meter provider can cancel it.

Reconnection fee

If your power has been disconnected by your utility, you will not have to pay the reconnection fee.

 

NOTE: Unit sub-meter providers are not required to waive reconnection fees.

Natural gas

Rate-regulated natural gas utilities have to follow special rules when dealing with low-income customers; for example, waiving security deposits and allowing longer payment times under arrears payment plans. 

Security deposits

You can ask to have your security deposit waived by your natural gas utility.

 

If you previously paid a security deposit you can ask to have it back (as long as any outstanding arrears have been paid).

 

When your security deposit is returned, it will either be:

  • Credited to your account with the utility if it's less than your average monthly bill
  • Refunded by cheque if it's more than your average monthly bill
Disconnection grace period If your LEAP intake agency notifies your natural gas utility that you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance, they must suspend any disconnection process for a maximum of 21 days from the notification date.
Arrears payment agreement

Eligible low-income customers that enter into an arrears payment agreement are allowed more time to pay outstanding balances to their natural gas utility. Those time periods are:

  • at least 8 months if you owe an amount less than twice your average monthly bill
  • at least 12 months if you owe more than twice your average monthly bill but less than five times your average monthly bill
  • at least 16 months if you owe more than 5 times your average monthly bill

Your utility may also ask for a 10% down payment when you enter an arrears payment plan.

 

If you default on your arrears payment agreement or regular bill payment more than twice, your utility can cancel it.

Reconnection fee

If your natural gas has been disconnected by your utility, you will not have to pay the reconnection fee.


Learn more about rules that electricity and natural gas utilities have to follow in our Consumer Protection section. 

Did your utility follow the rules?

If you believe that your utility or unit sub-meter provider has broken our customer service rules we want to hear from you.