BELLEVILLE, Ill. (WMBD) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) on Monday announced $275 million in funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) programs.
The $90 million of the funding from the CARES Act will let the state increase eligibility for these programs to one million income-qualified Illinoisans.
Eligible Illinois residents and families can apply to receive assistance with food, rent, utilities, temporary shelter, medicine and other essential household services starting today.
“The work to build a state that serves all its people – no matter who they are or what part of Illinois they call home – is more important than ever as we seek to restore our economy while continuing to prioritize our collective health,” Pritzker said.
“This additional funding for our Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and our Community Services Block Grant program allows us to provide even more support for things like rent, food, temporary shelter, utility bills and other essential services to qualifying low-income households who need emergency assistance. Under this $275 million program, 3.5 million Illinoisans are eligible for hundreds of dollars in relief.”
To provide additional relief for families in the face of COVID-19, the governor’s budget also increases the eligibility income threshold up to 200% of the federal poverty level.
DCEO Director Michael Negron said the funding will give those affected by COVID-19 some relief.
“COVID 19 has not only resulted in an unprecedented global health crisis, but it has also led to an extraordinary economic crisis as well – causing many Illinois families to turn to safety net programs like these,” Negron said, “Governor Pritzker’s investments to expand our LIHEAP and CSBG programs will help many more income-eligible individuals and families impacted by this crisis to get the help they need so they can get back on their feet.”
DCEO launched a new remote application process that will provide applicants the option to begin the intake process online or over the phone with the assistance of a live agent. The State’s new website and call center will be accessible for all residents – with assistance provided in multiple languages.
Applicants will be served on a first-come, first-served basis. In the coming weeks DCEO will partner with its network of 35 statewide Community Action Agencies (CAAs) to conduct outreach to high-need communities to let them know about this critical funding available, and to inform them of easy steps they can take to apply immediately.
“Crosswalk staff is excited to implement this new and innovative system to assist our customers,” said Debra Jackanicz Executive Director, Crosswalk Community Action Agency. “During these unprecedented times, it is a must that we all think outside the box to ensure that those affected by COVID-19 are assisted as quickly as possible. Eliminating as much financial burden as possible and restoring quality of life is the heart of Community Action Agency.”
Qualifying participants could receive hundreds of dollars in relief support. Last year, the average household qualifying for LIHEAP received $600 in assistance. Expanded eligibility for CSBG takes effect immediately. New LIHEAP eligibility will come online at the end of July, residents can still apply for 2020 programing through June 30.
To expedite application reviews, DCEO will work with CAAs and local agencies to verify income and eligibility documentation. Eligibility will be determined by a number of factors, such as household size and the applicant’s ability to verify documentation. While the State typically disburses community assistance funds in a matter of weeks, turnaround time under the expanded “Help Illinois Families” initiative may be extended due to the volume of applications received.
Depending on type of assistance being sought, applicants will need:
- Proof of employment (paystubs) for the head of the household for the last 30 days.
- Copy of current heat and electric bills issued within the last 30 days (if they pay for their energy directly).
- Copy of their rental agreement (if they are renting) showing that utilities are not included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact information.
- Proof of Social Security numbers for all household members.
Bob Gallo, state director for AARP Illinois, said older adults across Illinois have been hit especially hard by the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
“On behalf of our 1.7 million members, we commend state and community leaders for recognizing the need to provide a crucial safety net to older adults, so that they can worry a little less about falling behind on utility, rent and other essential expenses and continue to focus on their health and safety,” Gallo said.