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October 31, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich announces winter heating assistance grants available tomorrow; urges eligible households to apply now
Households advised to take steps before extreme cold hits Illinois; For energy assistance and weatherization tips visit www.keepwarm.illinois.gov or call toll-free 1-877-411-WARM

CHICAGO –Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that starting tomorrow, winter heating grants will be available for all income-eligible households through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and he urged all eligible families to apply now before extreme cold hits Illinois.  Yesterday, the Governor launched the Keep Warm Illinois campaign, a comprehensive effort to inform and prepare Illinois residents, especially the elderly, families with small children, and persons with disabilities for high home heating costs this winter. For information on energy assistance or weatherization tips, families can visit the Keep Warm Illinois website at www.keepwarm.illinois.gov or call the toll-free Keep Warm Illinois hotline at 1-877-411-WARM. 
“We are making every effort to help families stay connected to their heat and energy during the winter, so they don’t have to make impossible choices between paying their heating bills or putting food on the table,” said Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  “With winter just around the corner, I urge all families who are eligible for LIHEAP to apply now so they can be safe and healthy in the months ahead.”
Through LIHEAP, a state- and federally-funded energy assistance program run by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), heating bill payments are made on behalf of households with incomes of up to 150 % of the federal poverty level.   A single-person household can qualify for LIHEAP with a monthly income of up to $1,196, a two-person household up to $1,604, and a family of four can earn up to $2,420.  Benefits are paid directly to the household’s appropriate utility.
“The LIHEAP program benefits families and seniors across Illinois,” said Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Barry Maram.  “We are aggressively reaching out to every community to make sure that families know what benefits are available to help them stay warm and safe in the winter.”
LIHEAP energy grant applications are processed through a network of 35 Local Administering Agencies around the state.  These agencies started accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis from the elderly, disabled persons, and other priority households on September 1.  The winter heating program is expected to serve 300,000 households this winter with an estimated $150 million in state and federal funding.  For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local administrating agencies and additional information about the grant program, go to www.liheapillinois.com, or call the toll-free Keep Warm Illinois hotline at 1-877-411-WARM.
On Monday, Governor Blagojevich launched the Keep Warm Illinois campaign and website to help all Illinoisans stay warm, healthy and safe this winter. The Keep Warm Illinois campaign brings state agencies together to coordinate efforts in preparing communities across the state for high home heating costs this winter.  Gov. Blagojevich’s comprehensive Keep Warm Illinois initiatives include:
The Keep Warm Illinois website (www.keepwarm.illinois.gov): The Keep Warm Illinois website offers a variety of no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, a web-based tool to conduct a home energy audit, links to energy assistance programs and other resources.  The Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM) is also available as another resource for Illinois residents to learn how to save energy and get energy assistance.  
Warming Centers: The Department of Human Services will be providing warming centers in every region of the state so that anyone seeking refuge from the cold has a heated place to go when the temperature drops.  More information on the state's warming centers is available by calling the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM). 
Energy Savings Workshops:  The Department of Healthcare and Family Services will organize community workshops statewide through community-based organizations and local governments. At these workshops, Illinois residents will have access to information from energy conservation experts on how to reduce overall energy costs.  A list of energy savings workshops can be found on www.keepwarm.illinois.gov
Illinois Energy Efficient Affordable Housing Construction Program:  The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has grants available to non-profit housing developers that include energy efficient building practices in the rehab or construction of affordable housing units.  These building practices often bring energy savings between 50 % and 75 %.  
Winter Storm Preparation: Illinois experiences five severe winter storms each year, on average. Nearly 80 people in the United States die from winter storms and extreme cold every year, which is more than the fatalities due to tornadoes. The hazards posed by winter storms and extreme cold can be catastrophic. So, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency will offer a Winter Storm Preparation manual that includes important information on actions to take now that will increase resident’s chances of surviving winter storms and extreme cold.
Senior Safety:  If seniors lower their thermostats to reduce heating bills they can put themselves at risk of developing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which the body temperature drops dangerously low. They are at an increased risk especially if they take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition and have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The Department of Aging will offer safety tips to Illinois seniors before winter begins to help them prepare.


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