Watch CBS News

Many assistance programs available for energy bills during extreme cold

Help is available for heating bills amid extreme cold
Help is available for heating bills amid extreme cold 02:24

CHICAGO (CBS) -- This weekend, we are heading into our second round of bitter cold – and so many are turning up the heat, while others are fearful their heating bills will skyrocket.

Yet there are plenty of programs to help set off the concerns.

When steam is seen coming from a chimney – which it pretty much always is at this time of year - there is a good chance the heat is on. Across Chicago and the suburbs, the January deep freeze of late has left so many feeling the pressure of what will come from running the furnace.

"We want to make sure that people who need the resources get the resources, and that nobody stays overnight in the cold," said Illinois state Rep. Lilian Jimenez (D-Chicago), "especially the children."

Rep. Jimenez acknowledges her office is getting inundated with calls.

"People are concerned with the high cost of living in general, but the utility prices and the housing affordability is at top of people's concerns right now," said Jimenez.

The state lawmaker wants to remind families that Illinois has plenty of programs – among them the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. A family of four making less than $60,000 annually is eligible for funds.

"It's early enough that there are still funds available," said Rep. Jimenez. "We're encouraging people to go out and apply for that utility assistance right now."

Jimenez is holding a workshop in February at Alfred Nobel Dual Language School, at 4127 W. Hirsch St. in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood, to get families onboard.

"We want to make sure that families are taking advantage of this wonderful program that has been put into place specifically to help working families," Jimenez said.

Meanwhile, the state's largest natural gas company, Nicor – which serves 2.3 million customers in Northern Illinois – reminds its customers about its Shield of Caring program.

Families making less than $10,000 monthly can apply for grants to offset higher bills up to $250.

"That means as a customer, even if I don't change my thermostat, I'm likely using more natural gas to keep my house warm," said Nicor PR and Media Relations Manager Jennifer Golz, "so that's why all of these resources coming up during this time of year is - it's a great time to be talking about them."

Signup for the Nicor program started this week – just in time for next month's gas bills. As for the income-based program, which requires registration, more information is available at this link.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.