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IL’s budget crisis, and your utility bills

CUB’s been getting a steady stream of calls today from people concerned about how Illinois’ budget crisis threatens a program that encourages people to be good utility customers.

To fill a $4 billion gap in the budget, the state of Illinois says it has suspended the Percentage of Income Payment Plan, or PIPP. The program helps an estimated 50,000 low-income households cover their utility bills–as long as the participants pay at least 6 percent of their gross income toward those bills.

CUB fought for the legislation that created PIPP back in 2009, because not only does it help Illinois families keep the lights on but it also reduces overall costs.

When somebody can’t pay their utility bills we all pay for it, through “uncollectible” charges on our utility bills. Residential customers do pay 48 cents per utility bill to support PIPP, but that’s a small price to pay to reduce uncollectible costs. By keeping people up-to-date on their bills, PIPP helps reduce costs for everyone.

For now, PIPP is a victim of the budget battles in Springfield, and a lot of people are nervous about staying in good standing with their utility companies. “I’m really going to suffer….I’m barely scraping by and now I’m in a tougher situation,” a 73-year-old Park City woman told the Chicago Tribune. 

Read CUB’s Q&A about the issue and what PIPP customers can do.