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Alert: LIHEAP has reopened applications

With another potentially expensive winter ahead, CUB urges consumers to apply for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding, now that the application process has reopened.

Households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for LIHEAP funding. The application period runs from Sept. 1, 2022 through May 31, 2023, or until funds are exhausted. 

Be sure to tell your friends, family and neighbors about this opportunity. To apply or learn more about LIHEAP, visit www.helpillinoisfamilies.com, call the Help Illinois Families Assistance Line at 1-833-711-0374 or contact your Local Administering Agency/Community Action Agency directly (visit the IL Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) website to find yours).

There are two kinds of LIHEAP assistance available: LIHEAP Direct Vendor Payment (DVP) and Crisis Assistance. 

  • LIHEAP DVP is a one-time payment applicable to all income eligible households.
  • Crisis Assistance offers Reconnection Assistance within 48 hours of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)receiving documentation, or 18 hours if the temperature is below 32°F.

Unfortunately, because of a strain on funding caused by high energy prices this year, the Percentage of Income Payment Plan, or PIPP, is not being offered to new customers. PIPP allows customers of certain utilities to pay a percentage of their income and receive a monthly benefit toward their utility bill. Current PIPP participants will be able to continue on the program. There still is other LIHEAP funding available, so CUB encourages people to inquire about LIHEAP and if they qualify.

Also, review the list below.


Per state regulations, all utilities offer due-date extensions, payment plan arrangements and fee waivers for eligible customers. Below are resources available to consumers who are having trouble paying their bills, organized by major utilities.

Electric 

ComEd Payment Assistance

ComEd offers the Smart Assistance Manager, or SAM, a tool to match customers with payment assistance options. The utility recommends that you sign into your account to get personalized recommendations through SAM. 

Ameren Payment Assistance

Ameren Illinois offers several forms of financial assistance, including short-term, one-time payment extensions and fixed monthly payment agreements to settle past balances. (For example, Warm Neighbors Cool Friends provides year-round energy assistance and home weatherization to make harsh winters and hot summers bearable. Eligible households can receive $350 during the heating season and $200 during the cooling season.) This program is also offered for gas customers. 

Ameren also offers the option to “Pick a Due Date” which allows customers to select a payment date that works best for them. 

Gas

Peoples Gas Share the Warmth

Administered by the Community and Economic Development Association (CEDA), Share the Warmth provides heating grants to limited and fixed-income households. Eligible customers who make a payment toward their bills receive matching grants of up to $200. Also available for North Shore Gas customers.

Nicor Gas Sharing Program

Qualified residential customers can receive a one-time annual grant of $350 or $400, with no requirement to pay back. The program is administered through the Salvation Army.

Ameren Payment Assistance (see above)

Contact your utility to get more information about assistance available and special payment plans to help you pay off your bills over a longer period of time. Numbers for major utilities below: 

People’s Gas: 1-866-556-6001 and North Shore Gas: 1-866-556-6004 Water

Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)

The Illinois Low Income Household Water Assistance Program is a limited, one-time assistance program for consumers facing water disconnection or with a past due water and sewer bill of more than $250. This funding is available through August 31, 2023. You can apply through your local Community Action Agency.

Chicago Utility Billing Relief (UBR) Program 

Administered by the City of Chicago, the UBR Program provides low-income Chicago residents with a reduced rate on their water, sewer, and water-sewer tax, as well as debt relief for those who demonstrate they can manage the reduced rate bills for one year. For more details, visit the Utility Billing Relief website or call (312) 744-4426.

Additional resources 

Receiving assistance in other areas, such as housing, can free up more money to pay your utility bills.

www.FindHelp.org

This website uses your zip code to connect you to nearby resources (ranging from housing to healthcare and more). 

Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot 

Through this program, 5,000 Chicagoans will be selected in a citywide open application and lottery to receive $500 per month for twelve months, with no strings attached.

CUBHelpCenter.com 

Visit CUB’s Help Center for more resources on energy assistance, tips on cutting your bills and your rights to avoid disconnection.

If after reading this article, contacting your utility and/or contacting the above resources, you have further questions, you can file an inquiry or complaint online or call CUB toll-free at 1-800-669-5556 and speak to a consumer rights specialist.

Note: CUB does not provide financial assistance and has no affiliation with any of the listed programs. All information is accurate to the best of our knowledge.