Illinois Budget leaves many seniors without air conditioning during heat of summer

Local Senior Citizens formerly receiving assistance from the (Percentage of Income Payment Plan) may have a difficult time paying their utility bills this year. The PIPP program, which is part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), allows low income households to pay no more than 6% of their gross household income towards the cost of their utility bill.

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Participants were recently notified by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) that the program would be suspended July 1st. Since receiving these notices, former PIPP recipients have been reaching out to local organizations including Senior Services Plus for help paying their utility bills. Kelly Chapman, Information and Assistance Coordinator at Senior Services plus has received numerous calls from desperate seniors stating that they expect their power bills to more than double within the next month and they simply do not have the money.

Judith, 78, was recently notified by Madison County Community Development that she is losing her Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP).  Judith stated “it was a shock to me to get the letter, I thought everything was fine.  I had an appointment to re-certify for the program this year.”

Judith lives on less than $1,000 a month and while on the PIPP program, she paid no more than 6% of their income for gas and electric ($57 a month).  The program was able to help her immensely, and allowed her to remain living in her home independently.

Without PIPP, she expects her power bill to cost her over $100 a month (more than double). This is quite an increase and more than she can afford while living on a fixed income. She added, “I don’t know how people are going to make it without assistance.”

Another local resident, Henrietta, 88, was “utterly disgusted by the actions of Governor Rauner” regarding the budget cuts and specifically the lack of summer cooling assistance through the LIHEAP program.

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Henrietta said without the assistance, “I will have to resort to selling her personal items or rob Peter to pay Paul. This was the first time in my life I have voted Republican, and I thought he was the last chance we had to clean up the mess.  I never believed he would stoop to this level and hit the most defenseless people so hard.  I’d love to face this man.” 

Katherine is a resident of Edwardsville. As a senior on a fixed income, she makes less than 700 per month from her Social Security Administration disability. She was recently notified that PIPP assistance would end.  Instead of paying around $50 a month, she has received a $200 bill that is due by the end of July.   

“I have no idea how I am going to pay that bill, said Katherine. “What does Governor Rauner expect us to do? Die in the heat? Die in the cold? With the cost of food, medications, rent, gas, and other costs of living, this is just one more thing for me to worry about. I can’t go back to work, and the whole situation is making me sick!”

Senior Services Plus is a LIHEAP intake site for Madison county seniors 60 +, but is currently not accepting LIHEAP applications. The agency does not expect LIHEAP’s Summer Cooling Assistance program to be offered this summer, however, is hopeful that the state will recognize the importance of the program and reinstate the funding for LIHEAP to be offered this fall.

Kelly Chapman of Senior Services Plus explains, “It has been truly heartbreaking to be on the receiving end of these phone calls. As Information & Assistance Coordinator, I do my best to refer individuals to other agencies or programs that may be able to offer assistance, but with few other options, it has been a challenge.

She added, “I believe that without the PIPP program and without LIHEAP cooling assistance this summer, we will have a crisis on our hands. I have experienced first-hand the implications of the Governor’s decision through the calls that I have received and from the consumers who have come to my office desperately seeking help.  I believe his actions will be devastating to senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. I encourage anyone who disagrees with the Governor’s actions to contact his office at 217-782-6830 or 312-814-2121, to voice your support for LIHEAP and the PIPP program.”

 

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