Residents Delinquent in Payments to Utilities Will Have No Utility Bill Assistance Available This Spring and May See Service Interruptions Beginning April 1st
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will be unavailable this spring to help Cook County residents who are behind in their payments to Illinois’ public utilities. Over the last five years, federal funds for the program has declined, as Cook County residents’ need has increased. Beginning April 1st, those residents could face interruption of their gas and/or electric service.
LIHEAP, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the State of Illinois, is designed to assist eligible low income households pay for winter energy services. In Cook County, the program is administered by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA), who has already helped more than 144,000 low-income households with their energy needs since September. Last year 19,000 households used the LIHEAP program between March 16th and May 31st. A 37% decline in available federal funding over the last five years and increases in need, have resulted in a funding shortfall this program year and will mean that no reconnection assistance will be available this spring.
This year, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) informed CEDA that funding for LIHEAP in Cook County has been exhausted and residents will not receive further financial assistance from the program during this Program Year. Each year, LIHEAP ends on May 31st or until funding is exhausted, whichever occurs first.
The lack of funds will have a significant impact on Cook County residents who depend on LIHEAP to remove the threat of utility disconnection in the spring. While state law prohibits a gas or electric public utility from terminating service between December 1st and March 31st (except under certain conditions), the winter moratorium is ending. On April 1st, public utilities may begin interrupting service to customers who are behind in their payments.
Cook County residents with delinquent accounts should immediately contact the customer service department of their gas or electric public utility to request a payment plan or deferred billing plan (contact information can be found on the monthly bills). In addition, the customer service telephone numbers for Illinois’ major public utilities are:
• Com Ed Care: (888) 806-2273
• Peoples’ Gas Co: (866) 556-6001
• North Shore Gas Co.: (847) 336-9300
• NICOR: (888) 642-6748
For more information, please visit www.cedaorg.net or call CEDA at (800) 571-2332.