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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2000

Increased LIHEAP Money Allows State to Serve More Low Income Households

INCREASED LIHEAP MONEY ALLOWS STATE TO SERVE MORE LOW INCOME HOUSEHOLDS

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced that Illinois is receiving an additional $26.6 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) funds from the federal government, which will allow the state to help more families pay their heating bills this winter.

The increased federal money means that more than 47,000 new households in the state will be eligible for LIHEAP assistance. In September, Governor Ryan worked with Illinois Congressional delegation to secure an additional $24.7 million in federal LIHEAP funds, and since then has twice directed the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA) to increase benefit levels. This fall, Ryan supported legislation to raise the eligibility level for LIHEAP from 125% of the federal poverty level to 150%.

"I believe increasing the amount of money a family can make and still qualify for LIHEAP is a critical step we must take to serve the working poor and senior citizens on Social Security, who would otherwise be denied help," said Ryan, who expects the legislation will pass the General Assembly soon after lawmakers return to Springfield in early January.

The extra money for Illinois' LIHEAP program comes from an increase in federal emergency contingency funds and regularly allocated funds. Total funding for the LIHEAP program in Illinois this winter is approximately $153.7 million, with $65 million of the funds coming from the state's Supplemental Low Income Energy Assistance fund. Last year Illinois had a total of $112 million in LIHEAP funding available.

Once the new eligibility guidelines take effect, it's estimated that over 317,000 households will be served by LIHEAP this winter.

"Recently, Governor Ryan announced that benefit levels for LIHEAP clients who heat with natural gas were increased by 35% from last year. Now the Governor is working with federal officials and state lawmakers to make sure more households are served by LIHEAP this winter, which is crucial considering the fact that heating prices are heading up as temperatures are dropping," added DCCA Director Pam McDonough, who's agency administers Illinois' LIHEAP program.

Under the higher eligibility levels, a family of one can have a monthly income of no more than $1,044, compared to $870 under the existing guidelines; a two person household no more than $1,406, compared to $1,172; and a family of four an income no greater than $2,130, compared to $1,776. Benefits are provided directly to the household's gas or electric utility or delivered fuel dealer for households that heat with fuel oil or propane.

LIHEAP is operated throughout the state by a network of local agencies that work with utilities, determine eligibility and provide benefits to households. Anyone wishing to apply should contact the local agency in the county where they live. Additional assistance is available by calling the toll-free LIHEAP information line at 1-800-252-8643.


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