December 22, 2020
As of Friday, December 18, 2020, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) had provided $93 million in emergency funding to more than 155,000 households across the state through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) programs, which are both part of Governor JB Pritzker’s Help for Illinois Families initiative. In Champaign County, the RPC administers both LIHEAP and CSBG.
Launched by the Pritzker administration in June, the $275 million initiative was created to assist the growing number of families experiencing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19 by directing additional funding from the federal CARES Act and an expanded eligibility threshold to ensure more families statewide could benefit from assistance on utilities and other basic household bills.
“Given the enormous economic challenges facing many in our state as a result of COVID-19, state programs like Help for Illinois Families are being provided to help residents across our communities make ends meet,” comments DCEO Director Erin Guthrie. “For those still struggling, it’s not too late to apply, and we encourage that families in need reach out to DCEO or our community agency partners like the RPC for help with basic household needs that may currently be out of reach.”
As a result of the Governor’s investments in this program, more than $80 million has been provided to 119,000 households for LIHEAP, with more than $13 million in direct client assistance costs provided to 36,000 households as part of the CSBG program. Funding has been provided to families in all 102 counties statewide, with tens of thousands of new households served so far this program year.
“The RPC has certainly been on the front lines of assisting families and individuals during this COVID-19 pandemic utilizing the Governor’s Help for Illinois Families programs,” says Dalitso Sulamoyo, the RPC’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our staff have applied a combination of approaches to be able to reach many families and individuals who have not sought our assistance in the past so that they get the help they desperately need during this challenging moment of our history. We are appreciative of Governor Pritzker’s leadership in ensuring that Illinois’s families and individuals are able to get the help they need.”
Sulamoyo points out that through Help for Illinois Families programs alone, the RPC has so far provided assistance to 635 households in Champaign County representing 1,422 individuals.
The Pritzker administration worked with the General Assembly to expand the program’s eligibility requirements to boost the income eligibility threshold to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, making an additional one-million residents eligible for the program. The administration also adjusted requirements to LIHEAP to make it possible for undocumented families to receive assistance through the program for the first time.
While many have already benefited, the administration is urging families to claim the more than $180 million which remains available to help offset costs on heating, utilities, water, rent, food, and other forms of basic assistance. For Champaign County residents, LIHEAP remains open and is accepting applications online or by calling 217-384-1226.