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Victory in Springfield: Funding restored for excellent utility program

20151210_PIPP_enewsGood news out of Springfield this week: General Assembly leaders and the governor restored funding for the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP)—an essential program that helps keep electric and gas bills affordable for  roughly 50,000 low-income customers.

After months of campaigning from consumer advocates, including CUB and more than 1,700 of you who signed our petition, leaders in Springfield worked together to restore state funding for PIPP starting in the fall of 2016. (Read CUB’s statement.)

CUB fought for PIPP’s creation, in state legislation signed in 2009.  The program helps fixed-income households manage their utility bills and prevent expensive and dangerous disconnection and reconnection cycles, while encouraging participants to pay their bills on time.

Under the program, participating low-income households—customers of Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Nicor Gas and Peoples/North Shore Gas—are responsible for paying 6 percent of their gross income towards utility bills. Funds from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) help cover the rest of the bill.  Customers who regularly pay their PIPP portion on time get some of their debt forgiven.

Unfortunately, over the summer, the PIPP program was suspended to help fill a $4 billion hole in the state budget.  This left thousands of Illinois households without a life preserver.

But we weren’t about to give up the fight. Some 1,736 CUB supporters signed petitions to state legislators and the governor, supporting the restoration of funding for the PIPP program.

In December, state leaders passed a stopgap measure that restored the funding, and the bill was signed into law on Dec. 7. The program will now be able to start up again in the fall of 2016.  Great work, everyone!