The Citizens Utility Board is urging Illinois consumers to contact their utility companies immediately to take advantage of consumer protections available to them due to the pandemic. A state moratorium on shutoffs expires on April 1, so it is vital that people who are struggling to afford their bills get in touch with their utilities now.
“If you are having a hard time paying your bills, immediately contact your utility to find out what protections are available,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “The moratorium expires at the end of the month, but consumers can still prevent disconnection by reaching out to their utility.”
(Please read our new fact sheet on protections available for consumers.)
Last year, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved landmark consumer protections negotiated by consumer advocates—including CUB— and major utilities, which included a moratorium on shut offs and bill payment assistance funds. The moratorium ends on April 1. CUB, the Illinois Attorney General’s office, the City of Chicago, the ICC, Legal Aid, Communities Organizing and Family Issues and the major utilities have now entered into another agreement to address post-moratorium issues. Disconnection notices will be sent out in phases based on the amount of the customer’s arrearage, starting with customers who have the highest arrearage.
The following protections are available:
- Payment Plans
- ComEd, Ameren, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas customers that call their utility can get on an 18-month deferred payment arrangement (DPA) for the amount owed that is not covered by other financial assistance. Customers earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) will get the DPA for 0 percent down. Those above 300 percent FPL will be required to put 10 percent of the past due balance down. Customers can self-certify income level and will not need to provide documentation to get those protections.
- Nicor will provide 24-month DPAs to all customers that call through July 31.
- Customers that call after receiving a disconnection notice will be protected against disconnection until June 30, 2021, if they earn up to 300 percent of the FPL.
- Customers that do not make a payment or contact their utility to enter into a DPA after receiving a disconnection notice will be eligible for disconnection.
- Bill Payment Assistance
- Customers that previously received Bill Payment Assistance funds will again be eligible for additional funds under criteria established by each utility.
- ComEd: Customers up to 300 percent of the FPL can get up to $500, or possibly more for reconnection assistance (depending on how quickly funds are depleted).
- Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas: Customers up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level can get up to $500 or, if used for reconnection assistance, $1,000.
- Ameren: Customers up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level can get up to $400 for electric bills and $300 for gas bills.
- Nicor: If a customer has a balance more than $300 outstanding for at least 60 days, they qualify to get up to $500 in assistance. If the customer received Bill Payment Assistance funds in the fall, they are eligible again this spring, but the total assistance cannot exceed $800.
Consumers should contact their utilities to access these consumer protections:
Ameren Illinois — 1-800-755-5000
ComEd — 1-800-334-7661
Nicor Gas — 1-888-642-6748
North Shore Gas — 1-866-556-6004
Peoples Gas — 1-866-556-6001