State designates funds for Illinoisans behind on water bills

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(The Center Square) – Illinoisans in danger of having their water shut off have more funds to help.

The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program will provide $42 million in shutoff avoidance help for residents unable to pay their water and sewer bills.

State officials reported nearly 20% of households are paying late fees and 5% are shut off or in immediate danger of being shut off.

“This water assistance program is emergency assistance focused on reducing disconnections, so it is for folks that are facing the threat of imminent disconnection or are already disconnected,” said Sylvia Garcia, acting director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

To be eligible, Illinois families must demonstrate that they are within 200% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that means a combined income of $54,000 or less.

Officials said nearly 112,000 utility disconnections statewide have been avoided over the past year and a half due to available assistance.

“Some families may have a roof over their head, but they do not have enough money at the end of the month to prevent their lights or water from being shut off,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said. “Do they have to sacrifice a safe and healthy life by choosing one essential utility over another?”

LIHWAP was authorized in this year’s state budget and is funded via the American Rescue Plan Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The new water billing assistance program is in addition to $327 million in emergency assistance launched earlier this year for low-income families having a hard time paying utility bills.

A spokesperson with Illinois American Water said they also have programs in place to help residential customers facing financial hardships and urges them to call to discuss options.

“H2O Help to Others is administered by the Salvation Army and Illinois American Water to provide assistance to anyone facing a financial hardship, regardless of income,” Illinois American Water spokesperson Karen Cotton said.

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