CHICAGO – With home heating bills expected to rise this winter, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced as of Thursday, September 1, 2005, vulnerable households and those currently without home heating due to service disconnections would be able to apply for one-time grants through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to meet their winter heating needs.
“Even though we're still enjoying warm weather now, winter is right around the corner. And this year we can all expect the cost of heating our homes to go up as the cost of natural gas rises. We are taking steps now to help households that are at greatest risk of being left in the cold,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We want to make sure seniors and low-income families do not have to choose between paying their heating bills and their grocery bills during the cold winter months.”
The Energy Information Administration, which releases official energy statistics from the U.S. Government, stated earlier this month that, “average heating oil prices will be about 16 percent higher this winter compared to the 2004-2005 winter.” Through LIHEAP, run by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), heating bill payments will be made on behalf of seniors, the disabled, families with very young children, those currently without home heating due to service disconnections, and people with medical conditions that would be aggravated by cold.
“With heating bills on the rise this winter, we advise the most vulnerable households to apply for energy assistance as soon as they become available in September,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). “Grant applications will be available in areas across the state and could make a huge difference for families and vulnerable households when the cold winter is upon us.”
LIHEAP is a state- and federally-funded energy assistance program that assists households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. A single-person household can qualify 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 will be paid directly to the household’s appropriate utility.
The energy grant applications will be processed through a network of 35 Local Administering Agencies around the state. These agencies will accept applications on a first-come, first-serve basis from eligible households beginning September 1 until funding for the winter heating program is exhausted. The Local Administering Agencies will start accepting applications from all income-eligible households on November 1, 2006. The winter heating program is expected to reach 300,000 households this winter with an estimated $150 million in state and federal funding.
This summer approximately 55,648 households received assistance statewide from the Summer Cooling program though LIHEAP. Under Governor Blagojevich’s direction, HFS provided a total of $8,503,187 in direct assistance to families. The total number served far exceeded the initial estimate of 40,000 applicants, which indicates that the LIHEAP Summer Cooling Program was a timely response to the needs of the most vulnerable segments of the population: the elderly, disabled, and households with children. The coordinated outreach efforts by the Local Administering Agencies and LIHEAP staff combined to make the program a great success.
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.