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Overdue Utility Bills? Spring's Arrival Means Your Service Can Be Shut Off

By Wendell Hutson | April 5, 2013 8:47am

CHICAGO — Not everyone is happy that spring is here.

Warmer weather means an end to the annual state moratorium preventing energy providers such as ComEd from disconnecting service, and now households with past due accounts could have their service interrupted.

The moratorium took effect Dec. 1 and expired on March 31.

Knowing that her electricity could be disconnected in the next few weeks scares Donna Humes, a 42-year-old single mother of two daughters, ages 11 and 13.

"I knew this day would eventually come but I did not think it would come this soon," said Humes, a secretary for a downtown real estate company. "Every thing is so expensive, how can ComEd expect people to keep up with their bill when prices for food and rent continue to go up? Hell, I am still recovering from Christmas shopping."

Humes said she earned less than $40,000 last year, which is why she applied Thursday for financial help from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

"Hopefully they can help because I don't have any money," added the Grand Crossing resident. "My bill is a little over $930, which is a lot to me when you consider I live in an apartment. But then again I haven't paid on it since December."

The federally funded utility assistance program helps low-income households help pay their electric and gas bills, based on family size and income. If a customer qualifies, payments are made directly to the energy provider.

More than 370,000 Illinois households were approved for assistance in 2012, and payments could range from $100 to $1,900, with the average household receiving $450, according to officials with the program.

Krissy Posey, a spokeswoman for ComEd, said the utility has programs for people needing assistance, such as flexible payment plans.

"As long as a customer remains current on a payment plan they will not be disconnected," Posey said. "ComEd distributed $10 million in financial assistance to customers last year and has dedicated another $10 million this year."

One new program offered by ComEd is geared toward non-profit organizations, such as churches.

"The non-profit assistance program was added in 2012 to help those organizations serving basic needs to the community who may have also fallen on hard times," Posey said. Especially "since many of these organizations are a vital part of their respective communities."