Utility bill assistance available for those struggling to pay

August 30, 2013 8:31:39 AM PDT
Next week, Chicago area residents can begin applying for help to pay for their winter heating bills.

But summer is a time when many need assistance with their power bills, but don't know where to turn. In the winter months we hear about the utilities not disconnecting service due to dangerously cold weather. But the summer time holds challenges too. There are some options though, as a local mom trying to stabilize her household finances, has learned.

Like any parent, Veda Perez says she tried to shelter her kids from her divorce. She says going from being a homemaker to the bread winner hasn't been easy.

Perez landed a part time that only began at the start of school, so she prioritized bills. ComEd is the last one the list and she faces disconnection.

"It should be something they can do to assist customers during the summer," said Veda Perez, single mother.

There are some exceptions that would prevent disconnection for ComEd. In extreme heat ComEd would not disconnect service, when temperatures are over 95, or a resident that has a medical condition made worse by the heat may avoid disconnection -- but that can be used only once.

"If you've already gotten a medical certificate and you weren't able to keep current with the payment arrangement that you're not going to be able to do that again," said Jim Chilsen, Citizens Utility Board.

Citizens Utility Board receives thousands of calls from utility customers each year. In the summer months, they have fewer options from customers struggling financially, but starting next week federal assistance becomes available for low income residents through LIHEAP.

"Keep talking to people, keep talking to all parties involved. People who do that usually can find ways to get through these bleak periods," said Chilsen.

Perez says she got a grant and a medical waiver from ComEd in the spring due to her oldest daughter's diabetes, but she couldn't keep up with that payment plan. Now with her new part-time job she hopes one of the programs the kicks in in the fall will help get her through this rough patch.

"There's got to be something they can do to assist consumers period," said Perez.

For any of these programs or exemptions -- you will need documentation. And don't wait to apply -- now is the good time to plan ahead for winter if you think you may need help.

COMED ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
AGENCIES TO ASSIST
FOR COOK COUNTY RESIDENTS -- CEDA
RULES REGARDING UTILITIES IN ILLINOIS
CITIZENS UTILITY BOARD


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