SPRINGFIELD, IL (STL.News) Recognizing Earth Day, Governor JB Pritzker signed two Executive Orders that put consumers and climate first, further advancing the administration’s commitment to transition to clean energy economy and protect the health, safety, and well-being of Illinois communities and consumers. The orders pave the way for a new Utility Disconnection Avoidance Program to provide $80 million in assistance to households to avoid disconnections, and a State Fleet Working Group that will move the state towards low-emission and zero-emission vehicles for future purchases and leases.
As a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, Illinois continues to work toward meeting Paris Climate Agreement targets by implementing policies and programing that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26-28 percent by 2025. Under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, the administration is taking concrete steps to protect Illinois’ natural resources and prepare the state’s workers and economy for the transition to a clean energy economy.
“The urgent need to address climate change, revitalize our state, and create jobs means that now is the time to transition to a clean energy economy, and this Earth Day, I’m taking action to protect our residents and the environment,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “By expanding assistance for Illinois utility customers, we’re making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of customers at risk for disconnection right now – and by redirecting Illinois’ fleet of vehicles to prioritize low-emission and zero-emission vehicles, we’re setting the next generation of residents up for a better future. My administration is committed to making Illinois a leader in a clean energy and an equitable economy, and I’m proud to take another step toward fulfilling that mission.”
Governor JB Pritzker today signed Executive Order 2021-07, which temporarily suspends two provisions of the Illinois Energy Assistance Act, expanding the use of available emergency relief dollars for Illinois utility customers currently at risk of service disconnections following the end of the winter moratorium, and maximizing the number of households eligible for relief. The Governor’s Executive Order paves the way for a new Utility Disconnection Avoidance Program (UDAP), allocating an estimated $80 million to help households in crisis. The expanded assistance measures will grant billing relief for nearly 80,000 current and former Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) customers currently at risk for disconnection and prevent service shutoffs due to a consumer’s inability to pay.
Illinoisans eligible for UDAP may receive a one-time credit of at least $250 up to a maximum of $5,000 for each eligible utility account. Families eligible for UDAP benefits include those who are currently on a utility disconnection list based on arrearages, as well as those who have received state energy assistance through LIHEAP or PIPP between October 1, 2018 and June 30, 2021.
Upon the filing of UDAP Emergency Rules, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will move to immediately mobilize state and federal LIHEAP funding to help clients enrolled in the program be removed from the utilities’ shutoff lists. The Department will work with utility companies and local agencies to process invoices and credit customer accounts as soon as next month.
“Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, the State of Illinois has helped over 180,000 families with utility assistance and other household necessities since the pandemic first started. Today’s announcement expands the safety net for LIHEAP customers still at risk of facing service shut-offs,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “For residents who continue to face difficulty paying their bills, it’s not too late to enroll to receive LIHEAP benefits through our ongoing Help Illinois Families program.”
“Many Illinoisans lost their jobs or income due to the pandemic and are still hurting. The UDAP program complements the actions taken by the ICC to help families stay connected to life-saving utility services,” said Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Carrie K. Zalewski. “I applaud Governor JB Pritzker and DCEO for making it easier for low-income residents to access funding to reduce utility arrearages and avoid disconnection.”
The expanded safety net measures are available for all residents qualifying based on prior LIHEAP enrollment, regardless of provider. To conduct outreach to eligible customers, the State of Illinois is working with the six largest regulated gas and electric utilities in the state: ComEd, Ameren, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, and MidAmerican Energy. To reach additional customers beyond these service areas, the State is working with local agencies who assist with distributing LIHEAP benefits on an annual basis.
Families interested in applying for the UDAP program should contact their local LIHEAP agency. To find your local agency, please call DCEO’s dedicated Help Illinois Families hotline at 1-833-711-0374 or visit www.helpillinoisfamilies.com.
This program builds on the Help for Illinois Families program, created by the Governor last year to expand emergency utility assistance to help reach an unprecedented number of families who have fallen behind on bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 2020, Help for Illinois Families has provided support to over 180,000 families across the state. The program is currently offering assistance to new and returning customers. Additional information can be found online at www.helpillinoisfamilies.com.
Governor Pritzker today signed Executive Order 2021-08 to ensure future vehicles purchased or leased by the State of Illinois, to the extent possible, will be low-emission and zero-emission vehicles. The order also establishes a State Fleet Working Group comprised of representatives from different agencies within the administration that will lead the effort and take steps to procure and encourage the use of electric vehicles for state employees and the general public.
The State Fleet Working Group will be led by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) and will include the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), and Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). In the coming months, the working group will begin efforts to reduce emissions from the transportation sector by establishing a plan to finance the purchase of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles for state use. The group will also develop a plan for the installation of electric vehicle chargers in support of State-owned electric vehicles and create a guide to ensure the vehicles receive proper maintenance and care.
“Under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, IDOT is committed to supporting and expanding green transportation practices in all facets of the work we do,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “This initiative with our partner agencies will put us on the path toward using cleaner, more efficient vehicles for the services we provide the people of Illinois.”
“Illinois EPA looks forward to collaborating with fellow Agencies as we work to identify improvements in the State Fleet while prioritizing renewable and clean energy,” said Illinois EPA Director John Kim. “This effort further represents Governor Pritzker’s commitment to clean energy and a cleaner environment for the future of Illinois.”
“The transportation sector is the largest emitting sector in the state, and widespread adoption of electric vehicles is a necessary step to fight climate change. Illinois is poised to be a leader in expanding the growth of electric vehicles on our roads and highways, and today’s Executive Order shows Illinois’s commitment to decarbonizing the transportation sector,” continued ICC Chairman Zalewski.
In addition to leading the State Fleet Working Group, CMS will develop a plan to install electric vehicle chargers on State property for employees and public-use. CMS will utilize existing funds from Governor Pritzker’s bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan to facilitate the buildout of electric vehicle chargers at State-leased buildings.
“Illinois continues to be a leader in finding innovative ways to meet our transportation needs while protecting the environment,” said Janel L. Forde, Director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS). “Expanding the use of electric vehicles recognizes the need to transition our fleet to high-quality, low-emission vehicles.”
To reduce local air pollutants, the Illinois State Board of Education will also work in coordination with IDOT and IEPA to provide information about low-emission and zero-emission school bus options for local school districts.
Governor Pritzker’s executive actions build on past efforts and reflect his commitments to address climate and environmental matters in Illinois. In February, Governor Pritzker called on the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) to create a $15 million low-interest loan program to assist municipalities across central and southern Illinois who were financially impacted by record high natural gas prices resulting from extreme cold in Texas. To date, IFA has closed 14 low-interest, three-year loans to Illinois local governments hurt by the Texas freeze.