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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 7, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich Brings Together State, Congressional and Local Leaders to Launch Statewide Winter Assistance Days
Unprecedented Coordination on State, City and Community Levels

CHICAGO – Joining forces with over 20 state and local leaders, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a series of Winter Assistance Events scheduled across the state to offer members of low-income households the opportunity to apply for Low Income Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) grants, receive free weatherization kits and learn important information on several state healthcare programs.
 
“Consumers are being warned to brace for increases in home heating bills by as much as 77 percent.  That’s going to impact every family in Illinois – but it could be catastrophic for senior citizens and families already struggling to get by.  That’s why we’re reaching out in an unprecedented way to coordinate with community organizations and elected leaders to make sure people who are going to be hit the hardest by rising energy costs this winter get help as early as possible,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
 
The Blagojevich administration is helping to coordinate 16 Winter Assistance Days in several communities including Chicago, Harvey, Ford Heights, Robbins, Rockford, and Springfield.  The Administration is coordinating with Congressman Danny Davis (D-7), Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-4), Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2), Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-1), Congressman John Shimkus (R-19); Reverend Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Pastor Elder Ahart Medders; State Senator and Reverend James T. Meeks (I-15), State Senator Antonio Munoz (D-1); State Representative Cynthia Soto (D-4); Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-8), Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-5); Alderman Howard Brookins (21st Ward), Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward), Alderman Manuel Flores (1st Ward), Alderman Billy Ocasio (26th Ward), Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward); the Community Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA), Com Ed, People’s Energy, NICOR and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).
 
“We must do everything we can to help our neediest, most vulnerable families get through the cold winter months,” said Congressman Davis (D-7). “I am very proud to stand side by side with Governor Blagojevich and my fellow members of the Illinois Congressional delegation in this important effort that will bring critical resources directly to the communities that need them most.”
 
"I strongly urge residents to take advantage of these events because this winter is going to be especially difficult with the rising costs of gas prices," said Congressman Rush (D-1), who was able to secure a 50% increase in LIHEAP funds through the passage of his amendment as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. "I will continue to fight to protect critical federal energy assistance dollars to ensure our communities have access to the resources and services they need." 
 
At the events, residents will be allowed to apply for LIHEAP grant applications and HFS will distribute free weatherization kits to help decrease the cost of heating residents homes, which include 20-30 watt fluorescent light bulbs, foam door seals, window installation kits, packages of eight switch and outlet gaskets and replacement low-flow showerheads. Staff and volunteers from local utility companies, legal aid, local consumer advocate groups, and HFS will be on hand to offer assistance and guidance.
 
“This series of energy assistance days will unite communities across the state in a common and worthy cause of helping our neighbors keep their children warm and healthy,” said Congressman Shimkus (R-18) of Peoria who will attend the Springfield event.
 
In addition to providing energy and weatherization assistance, many of the events will be set up as “one stop shops” with information and applications on several state programs that attendees could benefit from including FamilyCare; KidCare; Governor Blagojevich’s I Save Rx; the new Illinois Cares Rx prescription drug benefit for seniors and persons with disabilities and child support enforcement. In some instances, legal aid representatives will also be made available.
 
"With temperatures beginning to drop and energy prices continuing to rise, these comprehensive Winter Assistance Events will help ensure that Illinois families and seniors can stay safe, secure and warm this winter," said Congressman Gutierrez (D-4). "I applaud the Governor for coordinating these activities across the state and for helping to protect the neediest among us."
 
“CEDA has trained intake workers at 140 community centers, faith-based organizations, learning centers and at the CEDA central office,” said CEDA President and CEO, Robert Wharton.  “We encourage all qualified families and individuals to apply early.”
 
Through LIHEAP, a state- and federally-funded energy assistance program run by HFS, heating bill payments are made on behalf of households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.  Governor Blagojevich made LIHEAP funding available on September 1, 2005 to vulnerable households and those currently without home heating due to service disconnections to meet their winter heating needs.  
 
A single-person household can qualify for LIHEAP with a monthly income of up to $1,196, a two-person household up to $1,604, and a family of four can earn up to $2,420.  Benefits are paid directly to the household’s appropriate utility.  The energy grant applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state.  These agencies accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis from vulnerable households beginning September 1 and all income-eligible households on November 1, 2005.  The winter heating program is expected to reach 300,000 households this winter with an estimated $150 million in state and federal funding.
 
LIHEAP serves as many households as possible while giving priority to households with the greatest energy burden and households whose health and safety is threatened.  For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local administrating agencies and additional information about the grant program, go to www.liheapillinois.com, or call the toll-free LIHEAP information line at 1-800-252-8643.
 
“The Governor is doing everything he can to make sure families stay out of the cold this winter and now is the time for utilities to step up to the plate and put an end to these needless reconnection fees,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.  “In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, high energy prices are going to affect each and every one of us this winter and we must be prepared as a state to do all we can to help the most vulnerable and struggling households.”
 
In September, Governor Blagojevich called on the Illinois utility companies to help maximize the effectiveness of LIHEAP by waiving administrative re-connection fees and security deposits for LIHEAP customers.  In the past, LIHEAP funds have been used first to cover utilities’ administrative re-connection fees and security deposits, which can cost more than $400.  The Governor asked utilities to waive such fees so that grant funds go directly to cover actual usage charges, allowing the state to help more households cover heating costs.
 
Last month, the Governor appointed a Special Director of Emergency Energy Assistance to marshal resources from the public and private sectors and to coordinate assistance to vulnerable populations impacted by record-high heating costs.  In addition to meeting the needs of vulnerable populations, the Special Director will set up a complaint system that will assist the state in monitoring utility prices and shut-offs.  The Special Director will work with utilities, the ICC and other state agencies to ensure the public’s best interest is protected.
 
Schedule of Events
DAY
DATE
TIME
HOST
AGENCY
Saturday
October 8, 2005
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Congressman Bobby Rush
Englewood High School Gymnasium
6201 South Stewart, Chicago
Saturday
October 15, 2005
10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Office of Congressman
John Shimkus
St. John’s Hospital - Main Lobby
800 East Carpenter, Springfield
Monday
October 17, 2005
11:00 am - 3:00pm
State Senator Antonio Munoz
Alderman George Cardenas
Our Lady of Fatima Church
3845 South California, Chicago
Tuesday
October 18, 2005
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Pastor Elder Ahart Medders
Apostolic Church of God
6320 South Dorchester, Chicago
Wednesday
October 19, 2005
5:00p.m. - 8:00p.m.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
St. Francis De Sales
10100 South Ewing, Chicago
Saturday
October 22, 2005
10:00 a.m. - 1:00p.m.
Alderman Howard Brookins
Resurrection Lutheran Church
9349 S. Wentworth, Chicago
Friday
October 28, 2005
TBD
TBD
State of Illinois Building
Rockford
Saturday
October 29, 2005
10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez
State Senator Cynthia Soto
Alderman Manuel Flores, 1st Ward
Alderman Billy Ocasio, 26th Ward Alderman Ariel Reboyras, 30th Ward
Wells High School
936 North Ashland, Chicago
Wednesday
November 2, 2005
TBD
Bloom Township and Rich Townships
TBD
Friday
November 4, 2005
TBD
Rainbow/Push Coalition
National Headquarters
930 East 50th Street, Chicago
Saturday
November 5, 2005
TBD
Rainbow/Push Coalition
National Headquarters
930 East 50th Street, Chicago
Wednesday
November 9, 2005
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Southeast CEDA
3518 West 139th Street, Robbins
Saturday
November 12, 2005
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Mayor Eric Kellogg
Harvey Community Center                
15320 Center Street, Harvey
Wednesday
November 19, 2005
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Cook County Commissioner
Deborah Sims
Ford Heights Community Service Assoc.
443 E. Lincoln Hwy, Ford Heights
Saturday
December 3, 2005
10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Congressman Danny Davis
District Office
3333 Arthington, Chicago
TBD
TBD
TBD
State Senator Reverend
James T. Meeks
*Church Members Only
Salem Baptist Church
752 E. 114th Street, Chicago


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