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IL Settlement Provides Relief to Low-Income

After months of contention, a $1 billion rate relief package for electric customers of Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison was signed in to law by Governor Rod Blagojevich on August 28. The package includes programs for the low-income customers of both utilities, including summer cooling assistance, rate relief and weatherization.

ComEd customers have already benefited from a low-income summer assistance program that provides a one-time credit of $30. Customers with incomes up to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines that experienced rate increases of 30 percent or more are eligible for a one-time credit of up to $240. LIHEAP-recipient households automatically qualify; other households can apply through community action agencies. The utility will spend over $15 million on these programs over the next three years. ComEd will also spend about $11 million for a residential hardship program that provides grants up to $1,000 to address special circumstances and hardships for households with incomes up to 400 percent of FPG.

Also available is expanded weatherization assistance for low-income, electric space-heat customers that have been approved through LIHEAP agencies. The program will cost about $4 million over the next three years.

For Ameren customers, a cooling assistance program provides grants of $150 to qualifying seniors, the disabled and households with children. Under a bill payment assistance program, $150 grants will be provided to low-income electric customers with household incomes of 150 to 200 percent of FPG. About $13 million has been allocated for these two programs over four years. The grants will be provided through community action agencies that administer LIHEAP. In addition, households with incomes up to 400 percent of FPG will be eligible for hardship assistance up to a maximum of $600 per household, at a cost of $8 million over four years.

Weatherization assistance will be available to LIHEAP-approved customers, particularly those with high usage and to all-electric households at a cost of $3 million over four years. Additionally, Ameren Illinois will partner with the LIHEAP office in the development of a percentage of income payment plan pilot that will target about 14,000 low-income electric space heat customers.

Illinois legislative leaders, the Illinois attorney general's office, the two utilities, electric generating companies and others announced the negotiated settlement of the $1 billion package on July 23 after months of wrangling between the legislature and the utilities over what to do about escalating electric rates when a nine-year rate freeze expired.

Source: Illinois newspapers, utility websites