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New crisis program to provide water bill assistance

Help is on the way for thousands of Illinois households struggling with their water and wastewater bills during the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) as a two-year crisis program providing benefits for water customers in need of assistance.

Read our fact sheet on the program, which is receiving funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan.

While LIHWAP is a temporary assistance program, Illinois plans to introduce the State Water Assistance Program (SWAP) sometime in 2022, but this program is still in the planning stages. When that program is ready to be launched, CUB will provide details.

To apply for LIHWAP, interested residents should visit their local administering agency (LAA)— the same office you would go to for Low Income Home Energy Assistance, or LIHEAP.   If you are physically unable to visit your LAA in-person, someone may drop off your application on your behalf, but you must provide them with a handwritten letter giving them permission to submit the application on your behalf.

Please note that there is no statewide start date. Local agencies will roll out the program throughout September and October, so contact your LAA to find out when you can apply. 

Income eligibility will follow the requirements set for the Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): 200% of the federal poverty limit. (Consult with the chart on this page to see if your household qualifies.) 

This program requires that at least one person in the household has a social security number. If that individual is eligible for assistance, the household will receive benefits, regardless of the citizenship status of other members in the household. 

Households will be helped on a first come, first served basis. Those who have had their service disconnected, are on the disconnect list or owe more than $250 will be prioritized. 

Benefits are available once for water and once for wastewater/sewer per household between Sept. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2023, or until funds have been exhausted.

To maximize the number of households assisted, there is a max of $1,500 in benefits per household, for water and sewer combined. These benefits can be put toward: 

  • Imminent disconnection/disconnection;
  • Disconnection fees/late fees;
  • Part of current bill if in disconnection status;
  • Arrears/past due balance.

If your service has not been disconnected and you are not on the disconnect list, there is a minimum benefit of $250. There is no minimum for those who have had their service disconnected or are on the disconnect list. 

If you need more financial assistance or don’t qualify for LIHWAP, inquire with your utility about any financial assistance programs they may offer directly. Also, call 2-1-1 (3-1-1 for Chicago residents) for local resources, and visit your local Salvation Army for assistance.

For any questions regarding LIHWAP or LIHEAP, please contact your LAA.