A program to help low-income household pay their heating bills is on the state budget chopping block. The governor’s proposed budget includes eliminating state funding to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program wouldn’t disappear, because federal money provides approximately two-thirds of its overall funding. Utility customers pay a surcharge which helps funds the state-backed portion of program. State Rep. Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates) questions why that money would be going into the state’s General Revenue Fund.
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“I think people reluctantly pay that surcharge on the meter, understanding, well, one of these days, it could be me. I might need the help,” Crespo said.
The explanation offered by Jim Schultz, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is the administration believes those dollars can be used more effectively in other areas.
“The purpose of using these funds in a different way is actually, hopefully, to build even further in economic development to create more jobs and more opportunity,” Schultz testified.
Schultz says more than 128,000 households get assistance through the state’s support of the program.