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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2005

Illinois Utilities Agree to Gov. Blagojevich’s Request to Waive Reconnection and Deposit Fees for Low-Income Households
Agreement will maximize the benefits of LIHEAP funding intended to keep thousands of vulnerable Illinoisans warm this winter

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that Illinois’ major utility companies – Ameren, Nicor Gas, and Peoples Energy – have agreed to his request to waive reconnection fees and suspend deposit requirements for customers receiving benefits through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Commonwealth Edison will waive deposits for LIHEAP customers living in buildings heated entirely by electricity.  In September, Governor Blagojevich requested that the utilities suspend the fees and deposits to ensure that LIHEAP funding was being used directly for heating costs, not administrative add-ons, for low-income Illinois residents coping with unprecedented increases in home heating costs projected for this winter.
 
“With home heating costs expected to increase by as much as 70 percent this winter, the LIHEAP program will be more important than ever for senior citizens and families that are just barely getting by,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I want to thank Ameren, Nicor, Peoples Gas, and ComEd for working with us to ensure that every dollar of LIHEAP aid will go toward keeping people warm during the difficult months ahead.”
 
Waiving the reconnection fees and suspending deposits will allow disconnected customers to get their home heating service restored with a LIHEAP pledge to pay their past due balance. With LIHEAP funds covering actual usage charges only, and not administrative reconnection fees and security deposits which can add more than $400 to a bill, the state can help thousands more low-income households with their heating costs this winter.
 
In a letter to Ed Hurley, the Governor’s recently-appointed Special Director for Emergency Energy Assistance, Nicor’s Scott Lewis wrote, “Nicor will waive the reconnection charge for LIHEAP customers if the customer’s account is currently off for non payment. For all LIHEAP customers receiving a LIHEAP pledge, we will waive, through June 1, 2006, the billing of a deposit.”
 
Rodrigo Sierra of Peoples Energy wrote, “Peoples’ utilities will waive reconnection fees once each calendar year for any customer who has been disconnected. For LIHEAP customers, Peoples’ utilities will agree to exclude deposit amounts from the ‘Amount to Reconnect’ calculation.”
 
Ameren Corporation’s Scott A. Cisel agreed to waive reconnection fees and suspend deposit requirements in negotiations led by the Governor’s office.
 
Commonwealth Edison agreed to waive deposits from November 15 through March 31, for any new or existing LIHEAP customers living in all-electric heated buildings who are currently disconnected.  These customers would have been required to pay a deposit to have service restored.
 
Ameren, Nicor Gas and Peoples Energy also agreed to offer affordable reconnection terms to LIHEAP beneficiaries under the Good Samaritan Initiative, starting December 1, 2005. This initiative will allow customers with account balances that are too high to be covered by the LIHEAP grant alone, but less than $3,000, to have their service restored by paying $250 or 20 percent of their remaining balance, whichever is less. Commonwealth Edison will not participate in the Good Samaritan Initiative but will instead allow its customers to have their service restored with a payment of 20 percent of the outstanding balance.
 
“We have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens as they face record energy bills and the looming threat of disconnection this winter,” said Lt. Governor Pat Quinn.   “I salute Ameren, Nicor, and Peoples Energy for adopting the Good Samaritan reconnection policies and providing thousands of Illinois families with peace of mind as they brace for a cold winter season.”
 
In addition, Ameren, Nicor Gas, Peoples’ Energy, and Commonwealth Edison agreed not to disconnect residential heating customers for non-payment between December 1, 2005 and March 31, 2006, even if temperatures rise above 32 degrees during that time.
 
“The Governor is acting swiftly to deal with the home heating crisis facing our state and to
alert Illinois residents about what they can do to prepare for winter,” Hurley said. “I want to emphasize that it’s important that everyone act now to stay warm and safe this winter. The best way for people to reduce their heating bill is to turn down the thermostat so they use less energy this winter.  Then, sealing up air leaks by caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows, pipes and cracks will help keep the heat in and lower utility bills. If people simply cannot afford to adequately heat their homes, they should sign up for energy assistance programs or get help by going to a warming center in their community.”
 
Through LIHEAP, a state- and federally-funded energy assistance program run by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service, heating bill payments are made on behalf of households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.  Gov. Blagojevich made LIHEAP funding available on September 1, 2005 to households with elderly or disabled members and those currently without home heating due to service disconnections to meet their winter heating needs. On November 1, all LIHEAP eligible households will be allowed to apply. 
 
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 until funding for the program is exhausted.  The winter heating program is expected to reach 300,000 households this winter with an estimated $150 million in state and federal funding.
 
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.
 
Last week, the Governor released a schedule of Winter Assistance Days occurring across the state to offer members of low-income households the opportunity to apply for LIHEAP grants, receive free weatherization kits and learn about several state healthcare programs.
 
Last month, the Governor appointed Ed Hurley as the 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.  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
 
DATE
HOST
AGENCY
October 8, 2005
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Congressman Bobby Rush
Englewood High School Gymnasium
6201 South Stewart, Chicago
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
October 17, 2005
11:00 am - 3:00pm
State Senator Antonio Munoz
Alderman George Cardenas
Our Lady of Fatima Church
3845 South California, Chicago
October 18, 2005
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Pastor Elder Ahart Medders
Apostolic Church of God
6320 South Dorchester, Chicago
October 19, 2005
5:00p.m. - 8:00p.m.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
St. Francis De Sales
10100 South Ewing, Chicago
October 22, 2005
10:00a.m. - 1:00p.m.
Alderman Howard Brookins
Resurrection Lutheran Church
9349 S. Wentworth, Chicago
October 28, 2005
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
TBD
State of Illinois Building
200 S. Wyman Street, Rockford
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
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
November 2, 2005
Time TBD
Bloom Township and Rich Townships
TBD
November 4, 2005
Time TBD
Rainbow/Push Coalition
National Headquarters
930 East 50th Street, Chicago
November 5, 2005
Time TBD
Rainbow/Push Coalition
National Headquarters
930 East 50th Street, Chicago
November 9, 2005
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
CEDA Site Manager
Bernie Lucas
Southeast CEDA
3518 West 139th Street, Robbins
November 12, 2005
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Mayor Eric Kellogg
Harvey Community Center                
15320 Center Street, Harvey
December 3, 2005
10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Congressman Danny Davis
District Office
3333 Arthington, Chicago
TBD
State Senator Reverend
James T. Meeks
*Church Members Only
Salem Baptist Church
752 E. 114th Street, Chicago
 


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