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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2008

Governor Blagojevich reminds families that the state provides cooling centers as safehavens from the heat this summer

CHICAGO – With temperatures soaring this week, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, as part of his Keep Cool Illinois campaign, is urging Illinoisans to take advantage of more than 120 state facilities that serve as cooling centers.  The cooling centers provide Illinoisans a place to stay cool and comfortable during the scorching hot days of summer.  The cooling centers are located at Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices throughout the state and the seven Illinois Tollway Oases in Chicago.  They 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.

“As the temperatures climb into the 90s this week, many low-income Illinoisans have no air conditioning in their homes or no other cool place to go to escape the heat,” Governor Blagojevich said.  “The cooling centers offer a clean, safe place to cool off during the hottest part of the day.”

More information on the state’s cooling centers is available by calling the IDHS toll-free hotline (800-843-6154) or you can search by zip code for the cooling center nearest you at www.keepcool.illinois.gov.

Governor Blagojevich is also urging Illinoisans to apply for help with their summer energy bills, beginning today.  The Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) will distribute up to $10 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to low-income families to assist them with their utility bills, so they can keep their air conditioners and fans running as temperatures rise over the summer.

As part of the 2008 Keep Cool Illinois campaign launched by the Blagojevich Administration earlier this summer, low income residents can apply for assistance with their summer energy bills starting Monday, July 7.  Governor Blagojevich has authorized the use of up to $10 million in assistance, which includes a $3 million contribution from Ameren to be used for cooling assistance. 

LIHEAP will make electricity bill payments on behalf of seniors, people with disabilities, families with young children and people who have medical conditions that may be aggravated by extreme heat.  Utility bill payments are made on behalf of households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

  

“HFS is helping our most vulnerable residents pay for the cost of cooling their homes through the LIHEAP program, and I would like to thank our friends at Ameren for their contribution that will allow us to help as many families as possible,” said HFS Director Barry S. Maram.  “I encourage people to log onto www.keepcool.illinois.gov to find out about these and other available state resources.”

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 $1,282, and a family of four can qualify with an income of $2,614.  Payments will be paid directly to the household’s electric utility. Applications are processed through a network of 35 community action agencies throughout the state.  These agencies accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis from eligible households.

Seniors are also at risk during extremely hot weather and the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) provides Summer Tips to seniors statewide through its network of Area Agencies on Aging.  Working with its partners in the Aging Network, IDoA provides materials outlining dangers associated with the summer weather, performs well-being checks on vulnerable seniors, provides cooling centers at senior centers, adult day service centers and nutrition sites as well as extended hours and transportation as requested. 

Seniors are at an increased risk especially if they take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition or who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. During heat emergencies, seniors are urged to contact their local Area Agencies on Aging or the Senior HelpLine (800-252-8966) for assistance with locating senior centers, adult day service sites and other familiar buildings that serve as cooling centers.

“Besides the heat and humidity being uncomfortable, it can be very dangerous for the aging population,” said Charles Johnson, Director of the Illinois Department on Aging.  “I encourage everyone to make sure seniors are in a cool place.” 

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) also has information about dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sun exposure on the IDPH website at www.idph.state.il.us

Blagojevich Administration officials launched the 2008 Keep Cool Illinois campaign and Website in June to help families stay cool, healthy and safe this summer.  A comprehensive, statewide effort, the purpose of Keep Cool Illinois, is to inform Illinois residents, especially the elderly, families with small children and persons with disabilities, how to prevent heat-related health problems, reduce their utility bills and participate in summer activities safely. 

The Keep Cool Illinois campaign includes the www.keepcool.illinois.gov Web site, a statewide network of cooling centers, targeted outreach to vulnerable senior citizens, energy assistance programs, public service announcements and fire safety and water safety tips to help families across Illinois prepare for the summer.


The statewide, multi-agency and group campaign involves the Illinois Departments on Aging (IDoA), Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Human Services (IDHS), Public Health (IDPH), the Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).



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