CHICAGO - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich launched the Keep Warm Illinois campaign and website today to help all Illinoisans stay warm, healthy and safe this winter. The Keep Warm Illinois campaign is a comprehensive effort to inform and prepare Illinois residents, especially the elderly, families with small children and persons with disabilities, for record high home heating costs this winter.
“We’re heading into the cold weather months knowing that home heating costs are expected to soar. The goal of the Keep Warm Illinois campaign is to help families across the state of Illinois reduce their heating bills this winter by conserving energy, weatherizing their homes, and utilizing the state resources available to them,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Special Director of Emergency Energy Assistance Ed Hurley, appointed by Gov. Blagojevich to spearhead a new initiative to help all Illinois residents cope with home heating costs this winter, was joined by Directors from the Illinois Departments on Aging, Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Human Services (IDHS), and the Deputy Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
“Every Illinois household will be affected by record heating costs, especially senior citizens and families already struggling to make ends meet,” Hurley said. “Through the Keep Warm Illinois campaign, state agencies are expanding public education, energy conservation and assistance efforts to help as many families as possible get the help they need this winter.”
Gov. Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois campaign brings state agencies together with public and private partnerships to coordinate efforts in preparing communities across the state for higher home heating costs this winter. A statewide public awareness effort in partnership with the state agencies, community colleges, and Clear Channel Radio in Chicago will help inform Illinoisans about winter preparations and resources available.
“As energy costs are skyrocketing across the nation, Gov. Blagojevich knows there are important steps Illinoisans should take to keep their home energy costs in check. The Keep Warm Illinois efforts will inform and educate residents in every corner of the state so they can save money while conserving energy,” said DCEO Director Jack Lavin.
The Governor will also make grants available statewide through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to all eligible, low-income households beginning tomorrow. November 1st marks the start of LIHEAP’S open enrollment period. 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 % of the federal poverty level.
“We all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to help Illinois families make it through the cold winter months ahead, especially our most vulnerable families,” said Barry Maram, Director of HFS. “By joining forces in this effort, we hope to assist more families than ever before. I would urge all Illinoisans who believe they may be eligible for the LIHEAP program to apply and get assistance before the really cold weather comes through Illinois.”
Gov. Blagojevich’s comprehensive Keep Warm Illinois initiatives include:
The Keep Warm Illinois website (www.keepwarm.illinois.gov) offers various no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, a web-based tool to conduct a home energy audit, links to energy assistance programs and other resources. Next month, the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM) will be available as another resource for Illinois residents to learn how to save energy and get energy assistance.
Warming Centers and Clothing Drives. The Department of Human Services will be coordinating clothing drives and providing warming centers in every region of the state so that anyone seeking refuge from the cold has a heated place to go when the temperature drops. More information on the state's warming centers will be available by calling the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM).
“As we've seen with the tremendous outpouring of support for victims of Hurricane Katrina, Illinoisans care about their fellow man," said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. "I am pleased to join Gov. Blagojevich in offering space in DHS offices across the state as warming centers to ensure that no one is left out in the cold this winter.”
Energy Savings Workshops. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will partner with community colleges across the state to hold workshops that offer important information on how people can improve the efficiency of their homes. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services will organize community workshops statewide through community-based organizations and local governments. At these workshops, Illinois residents will have access to information from energy conservation experts on how to reduce overall energy costs.
Winter Assistance Days. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is working with Congressional, state, and local leaders to organize a series of Winter Assistance events throughout Illinois where low-income families can apply for the state’s energy assistance programs and receive free energy savings kits.
Illinois Energy Efficient Affordable Housing Construction Program. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has grants available to non-profit housing developers that include energy efficient building practices in the rehab or construction of affordable housing units. These building practices often bring energy savings between 50 % and 75 %.
Winter Storm Preparation. Illinois experiences five severe winter storms each year, on average. Nearly 80 people in the United States die from winter storms and extreme cold every year, which is more than the fatalities due to tornadoes. The hazards posed by winter storms and extreme cold can be catastrophic. So, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency will offer a Winter Storm Preparation manual that includes important information on actions to take now that will increase resident’s chances of surviving winter storms and extreme cold.
Senior Safety. If seniors lower their thermostats to reduce heating bills they can put themselves at risk of developing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which the body temperature drops dangerously low. They are at an increased risk especially if they take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition and have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The Department of Aging will offer safety tips to Illinois seniors before winter begins to help them prepare.
"This year is going to be particularly tough on seniors on fixed incomes because the price of gas and electricity to heat homes is skyrocketing. But I urge them not to turn the heat down just to save money. I hope that older people, their families and those who care for them will take the practical, simple steps listed on the Keep Warm Illinois website, so they can adequately prepare for the cold weather ahead," said Charles Johnson, Director of the Department on Aging.
Keep Warm Illinois Leadership Summit. The Governor is calling upon statewide leaders from the consumer advocacy, social service, business, and philanthropic communities to meet at a Keep Warm Illinois summit in November. This group's charge will be to recommend ways in which the private sector should join with government to help everyone in Illinois conserve energy and stay warm and safe this winter.
Last month, Governor Blagojevich called upon Illinois utility companies to waive reconnection fees and security deposits for customers who are receiving energy assistance from the state. Ameren, Nicor, Peoples Energy and Commonwealth Edison now agree that these additional charges should not prevent their low-income customers from getting their home energy service restored. This agreement is helping the state's energy assistance resources go farther so that as many families as possible who've lost utility service can get it restored in time for winter. The Governor also called upon President Bush and Congressional leaders to approve additional federal funding for programs that help low-income families pay their utility bills and weatherize their homes.