When the summer brings extreme heat to Illinois, the state may provide cooling and air conditioning bill assistance to families. Any type of funds are paid out using grant money from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. Some years tens of millions of dollars may be provided to the less fortunate and people who need help, and thousands of families may be qualified for some form of financial aid.
In most years, grants and financial help with paying for the cost of cooling bills and air conditioning expenses had been standard in Illinois. However from time to time funding provided by the federal government may be lacking, so unfortunately this form of assistance is not provided every year.
However, when temperatures increase and the summertime heat becomes extreme, the state may decide to use LIHEAP money to provide help during the summer. This will almost always happen when temperatures reach triple digits. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is one of the leading organizations that administers aid, in partnership with local community action agencies and social service offices.
The cooling-assistance program has been very helpful in the past to thousands of families. However, the number of people who are able to receive assistance is small when considering the total population of the state. The amount of money available as part of LIHEAP has also not kept up with the ever increasing cost of electric bills.
The program only runs for a limited period of time. It is usually open during the month of July, and low income Illinois residents can apply for assistance by calling (877) 411-9276.
The amount of money offered is also very limited. Funding is normally prioritized for homes with someone in poor health, senior citizens, and/or families with young children. To qualify for LIHEAP in Illinois, applicants must also meet low income guidelines.
Qualified households that are responsible for paying their own air conditioning and electric bills will be eligible under the following criteria. The applicant’s total household income over the last 30 days can’t exceed 150 percent of the federal government poverty standard threshold for the number of people in the family. As indicated above, most applicants will need to have a person at least 60 years of age living in the home, a person with a disability, an individual with a documented medical condition aggravated by excessive heat, or a child less than 60 months of age. These individuals are most at risk from the extreme summer heat in Illinois. Another factor to consider is that customers who are currently benefiting from the electric Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) are ineligible for summer cooling bill assistance.
People who need more information, or who want to confirm their status, can apply for low income LIHEAP assistance by visiting their local administrating agency. This is usually a community action agency or social service office. People are encouraged to call ahead as the demand is great and long lines should be expected at most locations. Dial 877-411-9276 to find an application site near you.
In addition to the funds that may be available for paying air conditioning and summer cooling bills as part of LIHEAP, Illinois also runs over 120 state facilities that serve as cooling centers. These locations serve as a place to stay comfortable and importantly cool during the hotter months. The centers are located at various locations, including some Salvation Army centers as well as the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices. They are normally open during regular business hours. To find a location, dial 800-843-6154.
The state, through the Illinois Department of Public Health, also has tips and advice for seniors and others who are at risk. The agency advises residents to keep their window shades drawn; stay hydrated; avoid going outdoors during extreme heat; avoid or minimize physical exertion; wear loose cotton clothing; and avoid cooking with ovens and eating heavy meals. People with a severe medical condition, or who are taking medications, should also check with their doctor or pharmacist to find out about any heat-related side effects of their condition.
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