With winter fast approaching, social services agencies are asking the General Assembly to restore funding to a program to help low-income households pay their utility bills.
Only federal funding has been provided for the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, during the state budget impasse. Dalisto Sulamoyo, president of the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies, says state money made up one-third of the total LIHEAP funding in the last fiscal year, and without it, thousands won't receive assistance this winter to keep heating their homes.
"We are in danger of having people die of hypothermia and dangerous means of keeping themselves warm this winter," Sulamoyo said, "and yet, we have at least $40 million of state LIHEAP funds that are sitting idle in an account."
Sulamoyo wants the General Assembly to pass a special appropriation to release that funding, which comes from a surcharge paid by other utility customers around the state. The House included that funding in an appropriations bill passed on Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to take it up next week.
Gov. Bruce Rauner's original budget proposal would have cut funding for LIHEAP. His director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Jim Schultz, had said at a hearing in April that the administration wanted to put the money collected from utility customers into the state's general revenue fund rather than into LIHEAP.