Governor Announces Support for Program to Help Consumers Pay Overdue Heating Bills
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2001
SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced a $252,000 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grant to help fund a program designed to give participants the opportunity to repay delinquent utility bills resulting from last winter's high heating costs.
Total funding for last winter's LIHEAP program was $179 million with over 320,000 Illinois households receiving benefits averaging $500 per household. Funds provided today are part of $7.1 million in LIHEAP Special Projects designed to combat the aftereffects of last winter's cold weather and high energy costs.
The two-year pilot program receiving special funds, called Partners for Investment and Employment (PIE), is slated to begin in the third quarter of 2001 and will run through third quarter 2003. It is expected to serve approximately 525 customers in 62 counties served by AmerenCIPS.
"Over the past several months, my administration has been working with utilities across the state to find innovative ways to help low-income residents repay their winter heating bills," Governor Ryan said. "The PIE program is unique because as it helps residents pay their heating bills, it also provides incentives for unemployed customers to seek employment."
PIE is targeted toward the working poor and unemployed. Under the program, AmerenCIPS customers who are eligible for LIHEAP funds will be able to earn credits toward
their delinquent energy bills while working, either at their regular employment, or by seeking employment or volunteering.
Unemployed AmerenCIPS customers who received benefits through LIHEAP last winter, and who seek and acquire new employment within the private sector, would be eligible to receive a credit of $10 for every hour worked from PIE. That money would then be applied toward their energy bill. Customers performing volunteer work will earn credits of $5 per hour worked to be applied toward energy bills. The maximum credit that may be earned through either option is $500.
Those AmerenCIPS customers who are currently employed and received LIHEAP benefits last winter, may earn credits toward paying future heating bills. PIE will establish a utility savings account for future energy expenses, providing a dollar-for-dollar match for all contributions made by the customer, up to a maximum of $250.
"We are pleased to partner with the state in helping low-income customers recover financially---especially since those we are helping are helping themselves by working or contributing to the community through volunteer programs," says Ronald C. Zdellar, Ameren Vice President, Customer Services.
Funds for the grant will come from the LIHEAP program, administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA).
"The PIE program is a good example of state government and the private sector working together to provide relief for low-income Illinois residents who are having difficulty paying their heating bills," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough. "By offering an incentive for
LIHEAP clients to join the workforce, we're working to strengthen our overall state economy."
LIHEAP is a State and Federally funded program that is designed to assist households with incomes below 150% of poverty pay their winter energy bills.