PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — City council members are expected to consider a resolution to help keep the public out of the dark.
At the next council meeting, Tuesday, May 11, the council will vote on a resolution encouraging Governor J.B. Pritzker to use his emergency powers to reinstate the moratorium on utility shutoffs until the state releases additional financial assistance to customers.
The Illinois Commerce Commission announced, back in March, that Illinois utility companies could resume shutting off customers’ utilities who were behind on payment starting March 31, 2021.
“The city has no jurisdiction over the utilities so we can’t tell Ameren ‘you can’t do this,” Tim Riggenbach, Third District Councilman, said. “Only the governor, only the state of Illinois, the ICC can do that.”
Riggenbach said allowing this moratorium to expire was a premature move since the pandemic is still affecting the public on many different levels.
“There’s so much need in the East Bluff neighborhoods as well as on the Southside and North Valley as well,” Riggenbach said. “I did encounter a lot of folks that were being affected by this.”
Riggenbach said there is relief on its way, such as grant money from the Illinois Housing and Development Authority (IHDA). However, he said he believes the moratorium should be in place at least until these funds become available.
“Even in April our weather is so erratic, you know, it’s 75 degrees one day and then it gets back down to 35 degrees two days later,” Riggenbach said. “Just imagine what it’s like for these families and these households who are facing a shut-off of their utilities.”
He also said he understands Ameren is providing assistance to its customers but he believes there’s been a big disconnect in connecting the public with the resources they need.
Riggenbach said other cities have passed similar resolutions and said he hopes if the governor hears from other municipalities around the state he will see how “short-sighted” it was to end this moratorium.
The city also has a Utility Assistance Program for homeowners and renters struggling to pay. City staff said the program will provide up to six consecutive months of payments for overdue electric, gas or water bills for 100-150 households.