Illinois Winter Moratorium Law Expires

An increasing number of people are falling behind on their utility bills. Starting today utility companies can legally shut off our power or gas if we are behind on payments, and with the economy the way it is the number of people in that situation is growing.

For those of us behind on our payments, the coming of spring could soon choke off our flow of gas.

"After March 31, if you haven't paid your bill or you're in arrears and you are facing disconnection they can notify you that you must bring your account up to date or you do face disconnection." says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Better Business Bureau.

The winter moratorium law prohibits utility companies from turning off our sources of heat during the cold months, but April fool's day could leave some of us in the dark.

"If a person is having difficulties paying their bill we don't just go and immediately cut it off. There is a very well defined process with rules from the Illinois Commerce Commission that we need to follow." says Paul Callighan of ComEd.

ComEd says they will call, mail and even visit our house to tell us about our late payments before shutting off the power. Fortunately there are many programs that can help us keep the lights on.

"We expect record numbers of disconnected households to apply for assistance this year. We do have money available. We probably will not have funds available to help everybody, but we're expecting several thousand households to need some kind of assistance." says Mark Bixby, Rockford energy director.

ComEd spokesman Paul Callighan says there was a fourteen percent increase in the number of people who were sixty days behind on their payment in January and February than there were last year.

ComEd says they only disconnect power to customers who are two months behind on their payments.

Here is a list of programs available to help keep the lights on.

ComEd Assistance Programs and Bill Payment Options

Residential Special Hardship - One-time variable grant of up to $1000

Eligibility: Proof of job loss, illness, military deployment, disability, family crisis or senior citizen hardship; household income up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($84,000 for a family of four.)

Documentation Required: Medical Bills, military deployment; layoff notice; Medicaid/Kidcare card, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) documents;pay stubs or social security benefit letter; copy of current ComEd bill; identification as customer of record. (Gas, water, or telephone bills, photo ID, etc.)

Program Dates: Jan.1 or until funds are depleted.

To Apply: Contact your local Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) administering agency.

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Summer Assistance - $30 bill credit (equivalent to running one, medium-sized air conditioner for 250 hours, or three to four hours per day during the summer months).

Eligibility: Household income less than 200 percent of federal poverty level ($42,000 for a family of four); not approved for LIHEAP.

Documentation Required: Proof of income; identification as customer of record

Program Dates: June 1 - Aug. 31

To Apply: Contact your local Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) administering agency.

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C.H.A.M.P (ComEd Helps Activated Military Personnel) - Special services and benefits, including a one-time cash stipend, deferred billing, extended due dates, and late charges cancellation.

Eligibility: Military deployment

Documentation Required: Deployment papers

Program Dates: Year-round

To Apply: Call ComEd CARE at 888-806-CARE (2273)

Payment Plans - Spread bill payments over extended period.

For eligibility and documentation required, call 1-800-Edison1

Program Dates: Year-round

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Budget Billing - Spreads bill amounts more evenly throughout the year to avoid significant bill fluctuations during summer or winter months.

Eligibility: Open to all ComEd customers.

Documentation Required: ComEd account number and identification as customer of record

Program Dates: Year-round

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Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - Provides utility payment assistance.

Eligibility: Household income up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

For documentation needed and program dates, visit www.liheapillinois.com

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Smart Ideas - Information and incentives for customers to lower their energy costs and better manage their electricity usage.

Eligibility: Open to all ComEd customers.

Documentation Required: None

Program Dates: Year-round; for more information visit www.ComEd.com

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To apply for LIHEAP you must have the following:
1.) Social Security Cards OR current Social Security printouts for ALL household members.

2.) Proof of Income for the past 30 days (prior to your application),
-Pay check stubs or printout
-Social Security benefit printout
-Proof of Public Aid benefits
(If your are Zero income, you must provide food stamp benefit statement. If you receive assistance with housing you must provide current documentation.)

3.) Gas and Electric bills (most recent)
No shut off notices!
The utilities bills must be in your name, at your current address and must have the account number

4.) Current Rent Receipt
If you are applying for emergency furnace assistance you must be the homeowner and provide proof that you own the home.

You can contact the City of Rockford Human Services Department at 815-987-5501 or you can visit them at 612 N. Church Street M-F 8-5 pm


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