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Community Action agencies speak out, saying they are doing a lot but need help from Congress and the General Assembly          Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 7, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Community Action Association has discussed concerns that the home heating season looming on the horizon could be a hard winter for low-income Illinoisans.

"We are hoping for an average to mild winter," said Dalitso Sulamoyo, president and chief executive officer of the association. "But, we are concerned about the adequacy of resources that are available to Community Action agencies to meet current need."

Angela Stoltzenburg, executive director of the Central Illinois Economic Development Corp., said: "Historically, community need for home energy assistance has always exceeded our resources. This year, we are already seeing a great increase in the number of people who are contacting us for assistance. We need additional funding now more than ever."

John Colgan, vice president for public policy at the Illinois Community Action Association, said, "Just take a look at the evidence." According to recent news stories, Colgan said, "Illinoisans are facing a multidimensional energy problem." Among current issues discussed, he cited:

  1. Unprecedented fossil fuel prices, with natural gas prices expected to rise by 50 percent.
  2. A very limited supply of natural gas.
  3. The Gulf Coast portion of the existing supply has limited access, due to damage from hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
  4. A significant increase in poverty with decline in real income for typical households.

Dwight Lucas, president and chief executive officer of East Central Illinois Community Action Agency in Danville, said, "We are looking at the task before us and hoping that Congress and the General Assembly are going to share our concerns and need for additional help."

Sulamoyo, the president of the state association, pointed out that Community Action agencies are doing everything they can do to be ready for expected weather emergencies. "We are organizing a partnership with all social service networks in Illinois to educate LIHEAP customers on energy-efficient measures they can take to reduce energy costs," he said. "We are partnering with the state of Illinois and numerous other service networks to begin an educational and outreach plan designed to educate our target population. LIHEAP customers need to be prepared for what they may encounter."

The Illinois Community Action Association also called on the General Assembly and Congress to respond with increased resources. "It is truly time to put the politics aside and create a bipartisan approach to address this vital need," Lucas said. "How are we expected to mount an adequate response to this obvious problem with the same resources as last year? We need help, and we need it now."

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Colgan pointed to House Bill 466 as a means for the General Assembly to provide some emergency assistance to the LIHEAP program. "This plan would make approximately $8 million available to low-income consumers through the LIHEAP program," he said. "This is low-hanging fruit and would a very good first step." The bill is pending in the Illinois House on calendar order of concurrence for a Senate amendment and could be placed on the governor's desk immediately.

He also said, "In addition to HB 466, we need a more comprehensive approach to energy assistance in Illinois." He said that a growing network of organizations are advocating for the Illinois Affordable Energy Plan, which is outlined in Rep. Marlow Colvin's House Bill 465. "It is time for everyone to admit that energy prices are too high," Colgan said. "Low-income people cannot afford energy in Illinois, and we need to everything we can as a Community Action network to change that."

Another topic discussed at a recent Statehouse news conference was the current congressional debate concerning increased funding for LIHEAP. "There are several proposals that are floating in Congress," Colgan said. "We want them to just put their heads together and figure out a way to address this critical issue," he said. "Community Action agencies are doing everything we can think of, but we need Congress to quit taking and start taking action."

About the Illinois Community Action Association

The Illinois Community Action Association is a membership organization that serves as the network for Community Action agencies in Illinois. Among various services provided by the agencies, most operate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The state association strives to raise the health, education and economic standards of Illinois' low-income population.

[Illinois Community Action Association news release]

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