CHICAGOAs part of the Keep Warm Illinois campaign, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced Dec. 6 was the start of the Good Samaritan Initiative for the 2005-2006 winter season.
The initiative provides more affordable re-connection terms to Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) recipients who are customers of Ameren, Nicor Gas and Peoples Energy.
We want to do everything we can to keep families healthy and safe during this cold winter season, Blagojevich said. The Good Samaritan Initiative will help thousands of Illinois households that have been disconnected get their service restored at an affordable cost.
Thousands of low-income households across the state have been disconnected from utility service due to heating bill arrearages. The Good Samaritan Initiative will help many of these disconnected low-income customers by reducing the amount that the utilities require to restore service.
LIHEAP beneficiaries, whose outstanding balances are too high to be covered by a LIHEAP grant alone but less than $3,000, will need to pay only $250, or 20 percent, of the remaining balance, whichever is less, to have their service restored.
Customers must also set up payment plans with their utilities for the remainder of the arrearages. The agreement with Ameren, Nicor Gas and Peoples Energy to make the Good Samaritan re-connection terms available for the 2005-2006 heating season was announced by the governor in October 2005.
The Good Samaritan Energy Initiative will help thousands of low-income households receive heat during cold winter months, Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said. Every year, there are too many stories of fatal residential fires caused by makeshift heating methods, including defective space heaters, and were trying to prevent the devastating consequences of disconnected utility services.
Quinn also encouraged Illinois citizens to contribute to the Good Samaritan Trust Fund. The fund, which was established by law in 2003, allows Illinois residents and businesses to voluntarily contribute money toward the heating bills of low-income families. Contributions will benefit low-income residents of the county from which funds were donated and are tax deductible.
To voluntarily contribute to the Good Samaritan Energy Trust Fund, send tax-deductible donations to the Good Samaritan Trust Fund, P.O. Box 19154, Springfield, IL 62794.
Blagojevichs comprehensive Keep Warm Illinois initiatives include the following:
Keep Warm Web siteThe Keep Warm Illinois Web site ( www.keepwarm.illinois.gov) offers various no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, a Web-based tool to conduct a home energy audit, links to energy assistance programs and locations of warming centers and energy-saving workshops, among other resources. The Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM) is another resource for Illinois residents to learn how to save energy and get energy assistance.
Warming centers and clothing drivesThe Department of Human Services is coordinating clothing drives and providing warming centers in every region of the state to provide Illinoisans a place to stay warm and comfortable if they turn down their thermostats during the day to lower their heating bills. More information about the states warming centers will be available by calling the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM).
Energy savings workshopsThe Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has partnered with community colleges across the state to hold workshops that offer important information about how people can improve the efficiency of their homes. DCEO also formed an innovative partnership with Menards retail stores. On Nov. 19, 48 Menards locations across Illinois hosted Keep Warm Illinois Day, where, throughout the day, consumers could ask the stores experts how they could utilize many readily available practices and products to reduce their home energy bills. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services will organize community workshops statewide through community action agencies. At these workshops, Illinois residents will have access to information from energy conservation experts about how to reduce overall energy costs.
Winter Assistance DaysThe Department of Healthcare and Family Services is working with congressional, state, and local leaders to organize a series of Winter Assistance events throughout Illinois where low-income families can apply for the states energy assistance programs and receive free energy savings kits.
Illinois Energy-Efficient Affordable Housing Construction ProgramThe Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has grants available to nonprofit 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 preparationIllinois experiences five severe winter storms each year, on average. Nearly 80 people in the United States die from winter storms and extreme cold every year, which is more than the fatalities due to tornadoes. The hazards posed by winter storms and extreme cold can be catastrophic. So, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency will offer a Winter Storm Preparation manual that includes important information about actions to take now that will increase residents chances of surviving winter storms and extreme cold.
Senior safetyIf 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, Alzheimers disease and Parkinsons disease. The Department of Aging is offering safety tips to Illinois seniors to help them stay warm during the winter months.
From the Dec. 14-20, 2005, issue