Ontario to cut hydro rates, provide student funding during 28-day lockdown

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TORONTO — Ontario says it will provide new financial assistance for residents during a provincewide lockdown that starts on Boxing Day.

The province says it will cut hydro prices for 28 days, starting Jan. 1, as Ontarians are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The reduction to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour will automatically be credited on ratepayers' bills.

The government says it will also provide $200 to families with high school students aged 13 through to Grade 12.

The money can be used to help offset education expenses as all schools move lessons online for the first week of January. Students will then gradually return to in-class learning depending on their location and grade level.

The lockdown, announced Monday, is being imposed as Ontario tries to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control.

It will shutter all non-essential businesses, ban indoor gatherings, close restaurant dining rooms, and means Ontarians are advised to leave home only for essential trips.

The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario — where there are fewer cases — on Jan. 9.

The province reported 2,202 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 21 more deaths related to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 636 new cases in Toronto, 504 in Peel Region, and 218 in York Region.

COVID-19 cases that need hospitalization rose by 90 Tuesday to 1,005. There are currently 273 people in intensive care, and 172 on a ventilator.

Overall, there have been 160,255 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario, 136,767 resolved, and 4,188 deaths.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press