CHICAGO – Leaders from nearly 50 Illinois businesses, social service agencies and non-profit organizations joined Blagojevich administration officials and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn for Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois Leadership Summit in Chicago today. The Governor organized today’s summit to encourage private sector organizations - both non-profit and for-profit - to do their part in helping Illinois families make it through this winter's home heating crisis, which has been triggered by record-high energy prices. Joining the efforts, the United Way of Illinois and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce announced they are partnering with the state of Illinois to identify and assist other businesses and social service organizations willing to commit resources to the Keep Warm Illinois campaign’s energy conservation and assistance efforts.
“The cold weather months have begun and we know that home heating costs will reach record highs this year. It is very important that we all do our part by providing leadership and support to help Illinois families get through the winter,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I appreciate the Illinois business community and non-profit organizations that are stepping up to help their clients and customers conserve energy and reduce utility costs in the months ahead.”
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. Reaching out and garnering the support of the business community is an integral part of the state’s efforts to ensure as many households as possible are being helped this year.
The campaign’s efforts, including clothing drives, energy saving workshops, winter assistance days, and statewide warming centers, are coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Energy Assistance, the Illinois Departments on Aging, Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Human Services (IDHS), Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
“Having enough heat to keep warm in our cold winters is a vital necessity for every household in Illinois,” Lt. Gov. Quinn said. “It’s imperative that we make sure that everyone is brought in, and no one is left out when it comes to adequate heat in the Land of Lincoln.”
During the course of the Leadership Summit attendees learned about various ongoing private and public initiatives geared toward increasing awareness on energy assistance programs and resources that are available in Illinois. There was also discussion on different recommendations to help Illinois families cut down on energy costs.
The United Way and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce announced that they have each formed a partnership with the Keep Warm Illinois campaign to help identify and assist businesses and social service organizations willing to commit resources supporting energy conservation and assistance efforts.
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce will promote Keep Warm Illinois’ services to its members’ companies and to the local chamber network throughout northeastern Illinois to help highlight the innovative steps companies are taking to help their employees and their communities.
“Illinois businesses make important contributions toward the improvement of the lives of their customers and the communities where they operate,” said Jerry Roper, President of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “We are a part of this summit today in order to help focus attention on these initiatives and inspire other businesses to undertake similar efforts.”
United Way of Illinois and local United Ways will partner with the Keep Warm Illinois campaign by
identifying community agencies that give utility assistance, referring people seeking energy assistance, helping individuals and business help others by directing donations for energy assistance, finding local agencies experienced in energy assistance, assisting in fundraising events or programs to support energy assistance and the Keep Warm Illinois Campaign, distributing information regarding the Keep Warm Illinois, energy assistance, and conservation. The United Way has also agreed to utilize their partnerships with organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and other local human services providers.
Across the state of Illinois, United Way has 50 independent community boards and is currently involved in energy assistance efforts at both the local and state levels. For example, the United Way administers the federal Emergency Food and Shelter program and oversees agencies that receive food, rent, and utility assistance. Since 2002, it has administered the Ameren Dollar More Program, which will distribute $500,000 in energy assistance to Ameren customers this year.
“By joining the Governor in the Keep Warm Illinois effort, we are looking forward to assisting as many Illinois families as we can with their efforts to cut down on their energy costs this Winter,” said Ronald Melka, President of the United Way of Illinois.
The summit was attended by the following organizations: AARP of Illinois, Ameren Corporation, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, Catholic Conference of Illinois, Center for Economic Progress, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Charter One Bank, Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Urban League, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Utility Board, City of Chicago, Clear Channel Communications, Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, Commonwealth Edison, Culver’s Restaurants, Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Illinois Community Action Association, Illinois Energy Association, Illinois Migrant Council, Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, Illinois Municipal League, Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, League of United Latin American Citizens, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Salvation Army, Shorebank Neighborhood Institute, UIC Energy Resources Center, United Way of Illinois, Voices for Illinois Children and the YWCA.
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. 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).
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.