CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced a series of steps to provide additional relief for consumers during the ongoing propane emergency in Illinois. The actions, effective immediately, provide additional financial assistance to help families pay increased heating costs this winter, and address certain inspections which could slow down the delivery of propane to consumers. The Governor is also encouraging Illinois residents to report any suspected fraud that occur during this emergency to Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to helping keep Illinois residents warm and safe this winter.
“This winter has been particularly harsh on those with the fewest resources,” Governor Quinn said. “These steps will ensure that families across Illinois won’t be forced to decide between feeding their families and heating their homes. We also continue to clear the way for propane to be transported into Illinois as quickly and economically as possible.”
“Millions of residents across Illinois rely on propane gas to heat their homes,” Attorney General Madigan said. “Business operators seeking to profit by taking advantage of their customers during these record low temperatures should be on alert that we are on the lookout for potential violations of state law. Illinois residents who have concerns about their supplier should contact my office’s Consumer Fraud Bureau to file a complaint.”
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will offer an increase of $1,000 to each Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) eligible household for the purchase of propane to ensure uninterrupted delivery during this emergency. Over the next several days, DCEO will automatically credit the $1,000 increased benefit to the accounts of existing LIHEAP customers.
The increased benefit will also be available to all new eligible applicants that sign up for LIHEAP. It may take several days for the benefit to appear on DCEO’s electronic system, so LIHEAP customers who check their status online are encouraged to be patient as the updates are applied to the system. This increase will at least double the typical annual energy subsidy for a household depending on their circumstances.
Also effective today, DCEO will temporarily waive the $75 Good Faith Effort fee for LIHEAP applicants using propane to heat their homes. This is a fee used during ordinary circumstances to ensure applicants are not abusing the system, but during times of economic hardship and rising prices can be an obstacle to participation in the program. Waiving this fee for LIHEAP eligible households using propane will ensure the greatest possible access to the program during this severe weather period.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures Bureau will not perform meter inspections on propane trucks during the ongoing emergency. This will allow these vehicles to more quickly deliver this vital heating fuel to those who need it. The inspections will resume when the emergency is over.
“I’ve instructed my department to do everything it can to help resolve this crisis,” Agriculture Director Bob Flider said. “Temporarily suspending these inspections should allow deliveries of propane to reach their destinations as quickly as possible so consumers have access to fuel to heat their homes during this brutally cold weather.”
Attorney General Madigan, working with other Attorneys General in states where propane prices recently spiked, has undertaken a review of propane supply and pricing issues to assess if any violations of state law have occurred. The Attorney General’s office is also investigating several consumer complaints filed with her office by Illinois residents. Attorney General Madigan encourages consumers with complaints regarding propane to call her Consumer Fraud Hotline at 1-800-243-0618 or email the Consumer Fraud Bureau at AG_Consumer@atg.state.il.us.
Earlier this week Governor Quinn announced emergency actions to address the short supply and high prices of liquefied propane gas and heating oil in Illinois. The actions make it quicker and easier to transport these fuels from other states into Illinois. He issued a disaster proclamation to allow Illinois licensed truckers to travel through other states to obtain these fuels and deliver them to Illinois without applying for additional licenses. In addition, the tax for out-of-state trucks that use Illinois roads is being temporarily suspended by the Illinois Department of Revenue for trucks that are delivering heating fuels to Illinois.
A higher than usual nationwide demand for the fuels is being caused by a much colder than normal winter that is gripping large parts of the nation, including areas that don’t normally experience extreme cold. This is compounded by a wet harvest season that required an unusually heavy use of propane gas to dry grain.