(The Center Square) – Illinois is tapping into more American Rescue Plan Act funds to help needy families with energy bills and other costs.
The Help Illinois Families Initiative provides funding for qualifying households with low income, regardless of how they may be affected by COVID-19. A total of $327 million is being made available through the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant Program to help families with utilities, rent, food and other household expenses regardless of immigration status.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has implemented new requirements put in place by Senate Bill 0265 to increase the income threshold and to expand eligibility for households. A family of four with a monthly income of $4,417 or less would qualify.
With more funds available, this year’s program will increase payments per household with an average payment of $1,000 for 2022, up from the average of $750 last year.
“It is so important that these resources go to the families that need them the most, and so really want folks to act now and apply for the program,” said Sylvia Garcia, acting director of DCEO.
To qualify, households must demonstrate that they meet the expanded income requirements of 200% of the poverty level.
Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, said the funds are a big increase to what used to be offered to people applying at the Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity.
“Sometimes 5 or 6 o’clock, people would come out and they’d wait in line outside in this parking lot,” said Gordon-Booth. “Hoping to get a meeting the next morning, they’d spend the night hoping to get some energy assistance.”
The funds are available from now through May 31, 2022.