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Consumer advocates secure utility protections after hard winter

Throughout the pandemic, consumer advocates, state regulators and utilities have negotiated consumer protections to try to keep people connected to service. The following is a summary of the latest protections, broken down by the major utilities in the state, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

After reading this, CUB encourages you to call your utility to verify these protections. 

Energy assistance

  • The state of Illinois is encouraging those in need to apply for $150 million in energy assistance by May 31. Visit HelpIllinoisFamilies.com or call 1-833-711-0374 to learn more.
  • Call your utility to learn of any other assistance available. For example, Nicor’s Shield of Caring program offers qualifying residential customers up to $250 once every two years to apply to their past-due accounts. (For more information visit Nicor’s website.)
  • Also contact charities, such as the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and the Heartland Alliance, to see if they offer assistance for utility bills. Contact your municipality to see if it has assistance programs for residents, and also check with religious institutions. Ask family and friends if they know of organizations providing assistance.

Protections against disconnection

  • ComEd, Ameren, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas said they will not disconnect lower-income customers due to nonpayment, through July 31. 
  • Specifically, this covers customers who in 2022 have applied for or are receiving benefits through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP). 
  • Contact your utility to confirm eligibility. 

Special payment plans to pay off past-due bills

  • ComEd:
    • LIHEAP or PIPP customers can receive Deferred Payment Arrangements (DPAs) of 12 months, with no down payment available through July 31.  
    • Customers waiting to hear back on LIHEAP/PIPP applications can elect for a DPA of 12 months with no down payment, but they must contact ComEd to inform them of their application. 
    • All other residential customers can sign up for a DPA of up to 12 months with 10% down until July 31.
  • Ameren: 
    • LIHEAP or PIPP customers/applicants can receive extended deferred payment agreements for up to 18 months, with no down payment required until July 31.
    • Customers should inform Ameren they are actively applying for LIHEAP.
    • All other residential customers who contact Ameren can sign up for a DPA for up to 12 months with 10% down until July 31.
  • Nicor: 
    • Any residential customer can sign up for an 18-month deferred payment arrangement (DPA) with no down payment required. 
    • Customers must call Nicor Gas at 888-642-6748 to enroll.
  • Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas:
    • LIHEAP/PIPP customers or applicants are eligible for an 18-month DPA with no down payment required through July 31. 
    • All other residential customers may enroll in a 25% down, 18 month DPA through July 31, 2022.
    • Contact the North Shore call center at 866-556-6004 or Peoples Gas call center at 866-556-6001. (These benefits are not available online.)

Getting utility service reconnected

  • ComEd will waive reconnection fees for disconnected customers who later enroll in LIHEAP or PIPP.  
  • Ameren will waive reconnection fees for LIHEAP/PIPP qualified customers through July 31st and waive late fees for income-eligible gas customers.
  • Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas will waive reconnection fees for eligible low-income customers through June 30 with repaid balance. 

Staggered Disconnections 

For consumers not protected from disconnection through July 31, the utilities will stagger disconnections. Details are below.

Utility April May June
ComEd Customers with arrearages of 250% or more are eligible for disconnection.* Customers with arrearages of 175% or more are eligible for disconnection Resume standard disconnection practices.
Ameren Customers with arrearages of 150% or more are eligible for disconnection.* Resume standard disconnection practices.
Nicor Customers with arrearages of 150% or more are eligible for disconnection.* (Note:  Only customers who do not make a payment or contact the utility to enroll in a DPA will be disconnected. ) Customers with arrearages of 100% or more are eligible for disconnection Resume standard disconnection practices.
Peoples Gas & North Shore Gas Customers with high arrears amounts eligible for disconnection.* Utility to reevaluate disconnection plans.

* NOTE: Based on a customer’s arrearage level compared to the average residential customer arrearage on January 31.

Additional Resources

More information about resources and assistance programs: