CHICAGO- Amidst the background of rising energy costs and a weakening economy, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced $265 million in federal funding for Illinois’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This year’s increase in federal funding ensures that the state will be able to help low-income families with the cost of keeping their homes warm this winter.
“Working families throughout Illinois are struggling to make ends meet as prices for food, housing and gasoline skyrocket,” said Governor Blagojevich. “That’s why I’m happy to announce that this year we can help more working families, seniors and others to stay safe and healthy as temperatures drop.”
Governor Blagojevich sent a letter to members of the Illinois congressional delegation on July 17th urging them to pass legislation that would provide an increase of at least $2.5 billion in federal funding for LIHEAP. Congress recently funded the LIHEAP block grant program for fiscal year 2009 at $5.1 billion – the fully authorized level – thereby securing $265 million in aid for Illinois.
“Illinois families continue to feel the burden of higher utility bills, and many people haven’t been able to keep up. As we move into the colder winter months, this funding will allow us to help thousands of families stay warm and safe during the winter months,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), which administers the state’s energy assistance programs.
The $118 million increase in federal funding for Illinois ensures that the state will be able to continue to provide help to low-income families with the cost of keeping their homes warm this winter. Funds will also be allocated to weatherize more homes statewide through the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) as well.
LIHEAP and IHWAP are state- and federally-funded energy assistance programs that assist 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 $1,300, a two-person household up to $1,750, and a family of four can earn up to $2,650. Benefits are paid directly to the household’s appropriate utility.
Energy assistance applications are processed through a network of 35 community action agencies around the state. These agencies accept applications for utility bill payment assistance on a first-come, first-served basis from eligible households until funding for the winter heating program is exhausted. The community action agencies will start accepting applications from all income-eligible households on November 1.
Governor Blagojevich launched the comprehensive Keep Warm Illinois campaign in response to the spike in energy prices that is affecting consumers nationwide. Agencies across Illinois government have teamed to coordinate resources to ensure state residents have the information and resources necessary to better manage their home energy costs.
Efforts include the Keep Warm Illinois website, www.KeepWarm.Illinois.gov that offers energy saving tips, a web-based tool to conduct home energy audits, important information on energy assistance programs, and additional resources.
A Keep Warm Illinois hotline, 1-877-411-WARM, is also available as another resource as Illinois residents continue to learn about how to save energy, apply for energy assistance, warming centers, energy savings workshops and winter assistance days.