The Winter Preparedness and Energy Fair at the South Austin Satellite Center on Jan. 6, represented the second round of the city’s weatherization fairs aiming to help residents cope with rising utility costs and provide information to make homes and apartments more energy efficient.
The fair, taking place at the center on 5071 W. Congress Parkway, drew a packed crowd of more than hundred people, many of whom where seniors, a point not lost on attendee Ald. Isaac Carothers (29).
“It is important we do what we can to help all those of the west side, especially the elderly because they vote with more vigor than anyone else,” said Carothers. “I don’t care what your economic standing is if you are struggling with utility bills. We all are, especially this time of year. We in the government need to do all we can to help those in need.”
The energy fairs have taken place throughout the state since the start of fall last year. ComEd, CEDA, the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County and People’s Energy are on hand to provide community residents with information and financial assistance.
As with previous fairs, many of the attendees found it difficult in getting specific information regarding grants, weatherproofing vouchers and weatherization kits provided by ComEd because of the influx of people.
“I’m not sure what they are doing but some people have numbers and others don’t. I just need to know how I sign up for the LIHEAP grant,” said one participant who preferred to withhold her name.
Despite the chaotic atmosphere, there were at least a dozen representatives from CEDA and the South Austin Coalition to answer questions. Residents also received weatherization kits with light bulbs, energy efficient showerheads, and window stripping.
“There are families who can benefit from the information and tools available at these fairs,” said Sadhu Johnston of the Chicago Department of Environment. “We hope to increase the energy efficiency of Chicago’s housing stock as well improve the comfort and safety of its residents.”
Residents at the fair were connected to available resources through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). As of Jan. 5, nearly $60 million has been spent in Cook County through the program.
More than 147,000 applications for LIHEAP assistance have been received in Cook County. Of those, 140,000 have been approved for the program, which provides a one-time grant for eligible low-income households, with an average grant amount of $422.
The grants are on a first-come-first-serve basis.
LIHEAP funding is not expected to last past the end of January so the elected officials are encouraging residents to take advantage of funds while they last, according to officials on site.
Recipients of the LIHEAP grants will only need to pay half of their outstanding balance, and the grant will pay the other half.
Attendees of last Friday’s fair also received information about other programs designed to assist with energy costs, such as Share the Warmth, Good Samaritan and the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP), which provides weather-proofing services for participants who lack adequate heat insulation in their homes.
Attendees were able to check the status of their utility bills or pending grant applications through on-side customer service reps of People’s Energy, and ComEd.
There are five fairs remaining in the city until Feb. 11. Austin residents can come to SACCC office, also located at 5071 W Congress Pkwy, for applications to obtain these services.
The next fair is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 13 at Olive-Harvey College on the South Side, 10001 S. Woodlawn.
For more information regarding the remaining fairs or applications for LIHEAP grants call 311 or visit the city’s website at www.cityofchicago.org.