VICTORIA -- BC Hydro is offering financial support to people facing financial strain related to COVID-19.

The energy provider says that a new COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program has been launched, allowing customers to defer bill payments or arrange new "flexible payment plans" without penalty.

Meanwhile, customers facing intense financial hardship due to illness, job loss or the loss of a family member can also apply for the BC Hydro Customer Crisis Fund, which offers grants of up to $600 for electricity bills.

"We recognize the financial impact COVID-19 may have on our customers due to changes in employment from workplaces closing, or reducing staffing levels and want to provide some relief during this challenging time," said Chris O'Riley, BC Hydro president and chief executive officer Friday. 

"In addition, some customers may experience higher electricity bills due to increased consumption from spending more time at home."

BC Hydro adds that, out of an abundance of caution, the company has isolated several of its facilities, including its control centre, and increased its cleaning procedures at worksites. 

The energy provider has also temporarily closed its walk-in customer service desk and suspended all non-essential business travel, site tours and public meetings to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19.

"BC Hydro continues to monitor the situation closely and will implement new measures as the situation progresses based on information and advice provided by health authorities," said the organization.