CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today sent a letter to members of Illinois’ Congressional Delegation urging them to support legislation that would increase funding to the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The letter comes as the Governor announces that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) has set daily records for applications accepted from low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities seeking summer energy assistance since the July 7 launch of the program.
“Working families throughout the United States are struggling to make ends meet as prices for necessities such as food, mortgages and gasoline continue to skyrocket. In difficult economic times, more families will seek out assistance in paying their utility bills,” said Governor Blagojevich. “If we are to help more working families, seniors and others stay safe and healthy year-round, it is vital that the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) receives additional funding.”
In his letter, the Governor urged members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation to support an increase in federal funding for the LIHEAP block grant program. If this additional funding becomes available, Illinois could receive a significant increase in the initial allocation. This year Illinois received $114 million from the federal government to help eligible households with their home energy needs.
On July 7, HFS began accepting applications from individuals in need of summer cooling assistance. Since then, approximately 50,000 applications have been submitted. Through various improvements in the program’s operations, the Department was able to handle a record high 11,600 applications in a single day of the summer program’s first week. In Cook County, the fund allocation of approximately $3 million was exhausted in less than one week. Local agencies in other areas continue to accept applications.
“The high temperatures of the summer and the cold temperatures of the winter can be especially dangerous for seniors, young children and people with disabilities. However, although those individuals are at risk, many of them avoid running air conditioners or turning up the heat due to the rising costs of energy,” said HFS Director Barry S. Maram. “HFS is proud to administer LIHEAP to provide our most vulnerable residents with assistance that enables them to stay cool during the summer and warm during the winter. I encourage people to find out if they are eligible for this important and potentially life-saving program.”
LIHEAP is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state of Illinois. The program is administered locally by community action agencies throughout the state. During the summer program, a one-time benefit of $150 will be applied to the electricity bills of eligible households. An overdue bill or cut-off notice is not required; applicants are not required to own their own homes to be eligible.
Governor Blagojevich launched the Keep Warm Illinois campaign and Web site in the fall of 2005 to help all Illinoisans stay warm, healthy and safe throughout the winter. The Keep Warm Illinois campaign was also a comprehensive effort to inform and prepare Illinois residents for record high home heating costs. It included unprecedented coordination between state agencies as well as a statewide public awareness effort in partnership with community colleges and Clear Channel Radio in Chicago to help inform Illinoisans about winter preparations and resources available.
For more information about energy assistance and to find out how to apply, please visit www.liheapillinois.com
or call (877) 411-9276. And for information and tips on how to stay cool over the summer, please visit the Governor’s Keep Cool Web site, www.keepcool.illinois.gov
Text of the Governor’s letter follows:
July 17, 2008
Dear Member of the Illinois Congressional Delegation:
Working families throughout the United States are struggling to make ends meet as prices for necessities such as food, mortgages and gasoline continue to skyrocket. In difficult economic times, more families will seek out assistance in paying their utility bills. If we are to help more working families, seniors and others stay safe and healthy as temperatures fluctuate year-round, it is vital that the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) receives additional funding.
Two weeks ago, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services began accepting applications for energy assistance as part of the Keep Cool Illinois 2008 campaign. Through various improvements in the program’s operations, the Department was able to handle a record high 11,600 applications in a single day of the summer program’s first week. Since the July 7 launch of the summer energy assistance program, approximately 50,000 applications have been processed. So many households have applied in Cook County alone that the approximately $3 million allocated for Cook County was exhausted in less than one week. This is a trend that could continue well into winter as heating costs skyrocket.
As the current economic recession continues into the following months, more families, seniors and people with disabilities will need assistance with home energy costs. During Fiscal Year 2008, we were able to help 319,836 households with their winter heating costs. If the recent record increase we have seen in summer assistance applications is any indicator, we could see a significant increase in applications for winter assistance.
That is why it is so important that lawmakers in Washington work together to increase funding to the LIHEAP block grant program so that more families throughout the country are able to receive the energy assistance that will keep them safe and healthy during the extreme heat of summer and the extreme cold of winter. An increase of at least $2.5 billion in federal funding for LIHEAP could mean that Illinois would receive a significant increase in allocations for households in need of energy assistance.
I urge you to work with your colleagues in Congress to support increased funding for LIHEAP so that we are able to provide assistance to even more Illinois households. Working together, we can make sure that Illinois families do not need to choose between heating or air conditioning and food. We can keep Illinoisans healthy and safe regardless of the weather. I look forward to talking with you further about how increased LIHEAP funding will benefit the people of Illinois.
Rod R. Blagojevich