"For so many families in Illinois, LIHEAP heating assistance in the
winter and cooling assistance in the summer are essential to their
health and safety," Blagojevich said. "But when that assistance runs
out at the end the season, some of our most at-risk families become
disconnected again. That can mean that a family is without gas to
cook their dinner or lights in their home. Here in Illinois, we want
to break that cycle of disconnection. This grant will help those
families who are at the greatest risk of being disconnected from
their energy service stay connected throughout the year -- keeping
homes safer and families healthier."
The REACH project will target
those Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program beneficiaries who
have the highest risk of payment failure -- especially those with
incomes below 100 percent of the poverty level. Households receiving
a LIHEAP grant in the fall or winter are often disconnected again at
the end of the season, due to nonpayment or inconsistent payment --
leaving many homes without any energy service until LIHEAP
assistance becomes available again. To help LIHEAP participants stay
connected throughout the year, the REACH project will provide a
variety of intensive education and case management services,
including budget counseling, referral to other income support
services, energy education and weatherization services, and
encouragement to promote regular utility bill paying.
The REACH project will be administered by the Illinois Department
of Healthcare and Family Services and will operate in Cook, Calhoun,
Greene, Jersey and Macoupin counties.
Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director
Barry Maram accepted the REACH grant on behalf of the Blagojevich
administration on Monday at the 40th anniversary celebration of the
Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County. CEDA
is a nonprofit Community Action agency that serves 225,000
individuals annually and operates an array of family- and
community-based programs in Cook County.
"Some families face energy disconnection year after year, which
can endanger the health of their children and the safety of their
homes," Maram said. "The REACH project will work intensively with
families around the state to educate them about budget and
weatherization strategies that will help them pay their energy bills
throughout the year."
On Sunday, Blagojevich called on President George W. Bush to
release an additional $22 million in energy assistance funds for
LIHEAP to ensure that Midwestern low-income families can pay their
gas bills. The original $80 million dedicated to the project was
distributed according to a formula that counted only fuel oil as a
source of heat, yet most Midwestern consumers use natural gas. As a
result, the low-income families in Illinois and other Midwestern
states have not benefited from additional energy assistance.
[to top of second column]
The Energy Information Administration, which releases official
energy statistics from the U.S. government, stated last month that
average heating oil prices "will be about 16 percent higher this
winter compared to last winter."
Through LIHEAP, run by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and
Family Services, heating bill payments will be made on behalf of
seniors, the disabled and those currently without home heating
during the priority period.
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 appropriate utility.
The energy grant applications are processed through a network of
35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies
started accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis
from the elderly, disabled people and other priority households on
Sept. 1. The local administering agencies will accept applications
from all other income-eligible households starting on Nov. 1 until
funding for the winter heating program is exhausted. The winter
heating program is expected to serve 300,000 households this winter
with an estimated $150 million in state and federal funding.
This summer approximately 47,000 households received assistance
statewide through the LIHEAP Summer Cooling Program. Under
Blagojevich's direction, the Department of Healthcare and Family
Services provided a total of $8,503,187 in direct assistance to
families. The total number served far exceeded the initial estimate
of 40,000 applicants, which indicates that the cooling program was a
timely response to the needs of the most vulnerable segments of the
population: the elderly, disabled and households with children. The
coordinated outreach efforts by the local administering agencies and
LIHEAP staff combined to make the program a great success.
LIHEAP serves as many households as possible, while giving
priority to households with the greatest energy burden and
households whose health and safety is threatened.
For a complete listing of LIHEAP's local administrating agencies
and additional information about the grant program, call the
toll-free LIHEAP information line at 1-877-411-WARM
(9276) or visit
[News release from the governor's