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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2000

Heating Assistance Increased for Low Income Households

HEATING ASSISTANCE INCREASED FOR
LOW INCOME HOUSEHOLDS

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced that the state is increasing the amount of assistance provided this winter to low income Illinois households through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

In September Ryan instructed the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA) to adjust benefit levels to offset anticipated gas price increases. Today, Governor Ryan is increasing the amount that each household will receive in response to continued high energy prices and the onset of colder than normal weather.

"High natural gas prices and cold winter temperatures have created an extra burden on low-income households, particularly those on fixed incomes," Ryan said. "In an effort to address this problem, I have directed DCCA to increase benefit levels by an additional 15% for all households that will receive LIHEAP assistance this winter."

The action brings the total increase in LIHEAP benefits for households who heat with natural gas to 35%. All households who received LIHEAP benefits prior to December 11, 2000 will receive a supplemental benefit.

Funding for the increases comes from a Supplemental Federal allocation Illinois received in October. Total funding for the LIHEAP program in Illinois this winter is approximately $140 million, with $75 million from the federal Low Income Energy Assistance Block Grant and $65 million from the state's Supplemental Low Income Energy Assistance fund. Over 270,000 low-income households are expected to receive benefits this winter.

"We know that many low income households will be facing winter heating bills that are substantially higher than last year due to increased energy costs and cold weather," DCCA Director Pam McDonough said. "Fortunately, Governor Ryan, working with the Illinois Congressional delegation, was able to secure an extra $24.7 million in federal funding for the program this winter."

The increase in benefits means that a very low-income family of four living in Chicago, for example, will now be eligible to receive $675 towards their gas bill this winter, compared to $470 last year.

The energy assistance program is geared to households with incomes up to 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. A family of one can have a monthly income of no more than $870, a two person household no more than $1,172 and a family of four an income no greater than $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.

Governor Ryan has also instructed DCCA staff to hold regional educational seminars on the LIHEAP program beginning in January.

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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