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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2006

Governor Blagojevich announces $8 million energy grant program to begin July 31, reminds Illinois families to stay safe and healthy during hot temperatures
Keep Cool Campaign’s statewide cooling centers open Monday

SPRINGFIELD – With temperatures soaring past the 90s for the next several days, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the state will make $8 million in funding available starting July 31, 2006, for a summer energy assistance program and reminded Illinoisans to take advantage of statewide cooling centers and to take steps to avoid complications and health risks that can come with scorching hot temperatures.
 
“With intense summer heat just around the corner, I am urging all Illinoisans to take advantage of state resources available through the Keep Cool Illinois campaign including the energy assistance program that starts in two weeks,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “Extremely hot weather can cause serious health problems for everyone.  For those who have no air conditioning in their homes or no cool place to go, the cooling centers offer a clean, safe place to take refuge from the heat. I also urge residents to take simple steps to protect themselves from health complications like checking on your family and neighbors and drinking plenty of fluids.”
 
Today, the Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH) is reminding residents how to avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion and to check on their elderly neighbors in the coming days to make sure they are not at risk. Beginning Monday, more than 130 state office buildings throughout the state will be made available by the Department of Human Services (DHS) to serve as cooling centers.
 
The Governor directed the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to make $8 million in state and federal funding available July 31, 2006, through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program’s (LIHEAP) summer cooling program to assist vulnerable populations, including seniors, the disabled, and families with small children, with their household energy bills to protect them from dangerous weather conditions.
 
To help all Illinoisans stay healthy, safe and cool this summer, the Governor launched the statewide, comprehensive Keep Cool Illinois campaign and website last month. The Keep Cool Illinois campaign is multi-agency effort to inform Illinois residents, especially the elderly, families with small children, homeless, and persons with disabilities, how to prevent heat-related health problems, reduce their utility bills and participate in summer activities safely.  
 
LIHEAP Summer Cooling Program: Through the LIHEAP summer cooling program, electricity bill payments will be made on behalf of vulnerable residents at risk.  Just last week, ComEd gave the state of Illinois $1 million to expand the 2006 summer program to help LIHEAP eligible households.
 
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 $1,225, a two-person household up to $1,650, and a family of four can earn up to $2,500. Benefits will be paid directly to the household’s electric utility.
 
The energy grant applications will be processed through a network of 36 local administering agencies around the state.  These agencies will accept applications on a first-come, first-serve basis from eligible households July 31 through August 18, or until funding for the summer program is exhausted.
 
Keep Cooling Centers: The cooling centers are located at DHS offices throughout the state and will be open to the public during regular business hours, so anyone seeking refuge from the heat has a cool place to go when the temperature climbs.  More information on the state’s cooling centers will be available by calling the DHS toll-free hotline (800-843-6154) or locations can be found by zip code online at www.keepcool.illinois.gov.
 
Tips to Avoid Health Risks And Complications: The most common heat-related conditions are heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the most serious conditions and can become serious or even deadly if unattended.
 
If seniors raise their thermostats to reduce cooling bills they put themselves at risk of developing heat-related problems. They are at an increased risk especially if they take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition and who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Here are some life-saving tips on how to avoid heat-related problems.
  • Use a buddy system. If you are working in the heat, check on coworkers and have someone else do the same for you. If you are at home and are 65 years of age or older or have a chronic health problem, ask a friend, relative or neighbor check on you at least twice a day, even if you have air conditioning. If you know someone who is 65 years of age or older or who has a chronic health problem, check on them at least twice a day.
  • Limit outdoor activities. Try to plan activities for the coolest times of the day — before noon and in the evening. When physically active, rest frequently in the shade.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. During hot weather, you will need to drink more liquid than your thirst indicates. Even if you remain indoors and limit your activity, your body still needs to replace lost fluids, salt and minerals. Make an extra effort to drink a minimum of six to eight 8 oz. glasses of cool fluids daily. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. Parents should be sure young children get sufficient fluids. If you are on a special fluid-restricted diet or if you take diuretics, ask your physician about fluid intake during hot weather.
  • Protect your body. Wear as little clothing as possible when indoors, and wear light colored, loose fitting clothing outdoors. When spending time outdoors, avoid direct sunlight, wear a hat and use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15 to protect yourself against sunburn.
  • Never leave children, the elderly or pets in a parked car, not even for just a few minutes. The air temperature inside a car rises rapidly during hot weather and can lead to brain damage or death.
  • A final reminder — take care of your pets. In many ways, dogs and cats react to hot weather as humans do. Offer pets extra water and be sure to place the water dish in a shaded area if outdoors. Make sure pets have a protected place where they can get away from the sun.
If you must go outside, slow down and avoid strenuous activity.  If you must do strenuous   activity, do it during the early morning or late evening hours when it is cooler.  Take regular breaks when engaged in physical activity on warm days.  Try to rest often in shady or cool areas.  If you recognize that you, or someone else, are showing signs of a heat-related illness, stop activity and find a cool place.
 
The Keep Cool Illinois website (www.keepcool.illinois.gov) and hotline (1-877-411-9276) offer various no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, links to energy assistance programs, firework safety tips, West Nile virus prevention guides, a list of cooling center locations and other available state resources. 
 
In addition to the website and the statewide network of cooling centers, the Keep Cool Illinois campaign includes targeted outreach to vulnerable senior citizens, energy assistance programs, public service announcements, fire safety, water safety and other tips to help families across Illinois prepare for the summer.


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