State announces expansion of emergency assistance programs


Help available for utilities, food, summer employment

SPRINGFIELD – As Illinois prepares to enter the next phase of Gov. JB Pritzker’s reopening plan, his administration is launching a number of initiatives to help individuals and families who have been financially impacted from the economic shutdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 15, Pritzker was in Belleville to announce the expansion of two existing programs, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program, or LIHEAP, and the Community Services Block Grant program, which provide food, utility and other kinds of assistance to people who are struggling financially.

“While we continue to fight to keep Illinois’ people healthy and safe from the virus, we must battle the economic pain that it has wreaked upon our communities,” Pritzker said. “Unfortunately, in this battle, we are not unique. Every state in the United States at every stage of reopening has suffered job losses and business closures, including those that never formally had a stay-at-home order.”

LIHEAP provides direct financial assistance for low-income people who are having trouble affording their utility bills. The Community Services Block Grant program offers financial help for things like food, shelter and medicine.

Both programs are operated by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Activity. In the budget passed during a special session in May, lawmakers added $90 million to the programs from federal funds, bringing the total available to $275 million, and they expanded eligibility for the programs so they are now available to households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $52,400 a year for a family of four.

Pritzker also announced a new web portal, HelpIllinoisFamilies.com, where people can pre-apply for benefits under either program. Until recently, it was a federal requirement to apply in person at a local office.

Applicants will be asked for proof of employment, such as pay stubs for the head of the household for the past 30 days; copies of heat and electric bills issued within the past 30 days; a copy of their rental agreement if they are renting their home; and proof of Social Security numbers for all people living in the household.

People who need to talk with someone to walk through the application process can also call a new hotline number, 1-833-711-0374.

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