Screenshot of a mock ComEd energy bill on the utility’s website.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced on Nov. 10 that the state’s utility relief program for low-income families is now open for applications. 

The agency will distribute over $295 million in utility assistance programming through Gov. Pritzker’s Help Illinois Families program, state officials explained in a statement. The program is accepting applications now through May 31, 2022, while the funds remain, they said. 

Households earning 200% the federal poverty level or below are eligible. To apply or to get more information about the program, click here. Residents can also call the hotline service providing real-time assistance in over 30 languages at 1-833-711-0374. 

“Since the program first launched in September, over $84 million in payments have been approved for 77,000 households through the Low-income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP),” officials said. 

“Today, more than $200 million remains available to help cover the cost of heating and energy bills, including expanded benefits provided this year from $750 to $1,000 in payments available, on average per household, allowing more assistance to Illinois families for utilities this season than ever before.” 

State officials said the Energy Information Association (EIA) has estimated that nearly half of all U.S. households are expected to face higher heating costs this winter. 

“While everyday household costs are increasing, we want Illinois families to know that help is available and that they don’t have to struggle alone,” said DCEO Deputy Director David Wortman.

State officials and representatives with the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) recommend residents take advantage of utility assistance while the funding remains available and to avoid delaying payments on bills while the annual shut-off moratorium is in effect from Dec. 1 through March 31. 

The state and CUB are planning two virtual informational events in English and Spanish that are designed to help residents apply for the state utility relief funding. 

During the pandemic, Gov. Pritzker’s Administration has made historic levels of assistance available for Illinois consumers struggling to afford their electric and natural gas bills, and it’s our mission to get the word out,” said CUB Executive Director David Kolata. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep seniors and families safe and connected to the utility service we all need.”

Both events will be live-streamed on Facebook. They’ll happen at 6 p.m., on Nov. 17 (to register click here) and Nov. 18 (to register click here).