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October 31, 2008

Blagojevich Administration Now Accepting Applications for Home Energy Grants
Governor launches “Keep Warm Illinois” and urges households to apply for LIHEAP starting Nov. 1

CHICAGO – As home heating costs continue to rise and families prepare for dropping temperatures, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the launch of the Keep Warm Illinois campaign. This multi-agency initiative coordinates state efforts to prepare communities for high home heating costs this winter.  Starting Nov. 1, heating grants will be available for all income-eligible households through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and all eligible families are urged to apply now before extreme cold hits Illinois.


“This will be a difficult year for winter energy costs and people are already having a problem paying their bills,” said Governor Blagojevich. “With winter temperatures around the corner, I urge all families who are eligible for LIHEAP to apply now so they don’t have to make impossible choices between paying their heating bills and putting food on the table.”


On October 26, Governor Blagojevich announced $265 million in federal funding for LIHEAP – $118 million more than last year to help more Illinoisans as energy costs rise. With this year’s increase in federal funding, LIHEAP is expected to serve many more low-income families this winter. LIHEAP is administered by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) and helps residents, especially the elderly, families with small children, and persons with disabilities, reduce high heating costs this winter.


“Cold days and higher energy bills are right around the corner,” said HFS Director Barry S. Maram. “LIHEAP helps families and seniors across Illinois to defray that expense.  “We want to make sure that families know what benefits are available to help them stay warm and safe in the winter.”


Through LIHEAP, a state- and federally-funded energy assistance program, heating bill payments are made on behalf of 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 utilities on behalf of eligible households, except for households whose heating costs are included in their rent.


LIHEAP energy grant applications are processed through a network of 35 Local Community Action Agencies around the state. These agencies started accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis from the elderly, disabled persons, and other priority households on September 1.


For a complete listing of local community action agencies and additional information about the LIHEAP grant program, go to www.liheapillinois.com, or call the toll-free Keep Warm Illinois hotline at 1-877-411-WARM. For energy assistance and weatherization tips visit

www.keepwarm.illinois.gov  or call toll-free 1-877-411-WARM.


The multi-agency Keep Warm Illinois initiative includes HFS, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), and the Illinois Department on Aging. Each agency will provide the following resources:


The Keep Warm Illinois website (www.keepwarm.illinois.gov): The Keep Warm Illinois website offers a variety of no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, a web-based tool to conduct a home energy audit, and links to energy assistance programs and other resources.  The Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM) is also available as another resource for Illinois residents to learn how to save energy and get energy assistance.  


Warming Centers: DHS will provide 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 is available by calling the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM). 


Energy Savings Workshops:  HFS 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.  A list of energy savings workshops can be found on www.keepwarm.illinois.gov. 


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 percent and 75 percent.  


Winter Storm Preparation: Illinois experiences five severe winter storms each year, on average. Over the past five years, 66 Illinoisans have died from winter storms and extreme cold with the majority of those being in the 50- to 80 year-old age group. The hazards posed by winter storms and extreme cold can be catastrophic. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will offer a Winter Storm Preparation manual that includes important information on actions to take now that will increase residents’ 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 Illinois Department on Aging will offer safety tips to Illinois seniors before winter begins to help them prepare.


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