CHICAGO—Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Ed Hurley, and Commissioners Lula M. Ford and Erin M. O’Connell-Diaz, urged Illinois natural gas utilities to support The Good Samaritan Initiative, a plan to help disconnected low-income customers get reconnected so they can have heat this winter. Thousands of low-income households across the state currently have heating bill arrearages with the gas company and are disconnected from services.
The Good Samaritan Initiative will allow low-income customers get their heat reconnected by paying 20% of their arrearage or $250, whichever is less. The program is limited to low-income customers who are eligible for LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program). Customers will then be placed on a payment plan to pay off the remainder of their bill.
Some Illinois households pay as much as 20 percent of their monthly incomes on heating bills, and it is estimated there are between 40,000 to 50,000 residents statewide that are without heat. In recent legislation to address this pressing problem, the General Assembly found the inability to have heating service reconnected is a “…threat to the health and safety of many low-income households in Illinois.”
“The Good Samaritan Initiative will help thousands of low-income households receive heat during cold winter months,” Quinn said. “Every year there are too many stories of fatal residential fires caused by make-shift heating methods, including defective space heaters, and we’re trying to prevent the devastating consequences of disconnected utility services.”
One Chicago Fire Department expert estimates 10 percent of all house fires in winter months are due to make-shift heaters, including defective space heaters.
“The parable of the 'Good Samaritan' teaches us the value of compassion and neighborliness, so the Good Samaritan Initiative is timely and needed," Quinn said. “Illinois natural gas companies know the importance of being good neighbors, especially during this holiday season.”
Utilities providing gas service to Illinois consumers include Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas, Illinois Power, Ameren and Mid-American Energy.
To be eligible for LIHEAP assistance, a utility customer must have an income that does not exceed 150% of the Federal Poverty Line. For a family size of one, the annual income must not exceed $13,470, and for a family size of four, the annual income must not exceed $27,600.