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More Aid Coming To Peoria Families Struggling To Pay Bills

Hannah Alani
Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (Peoria) stands next to Gov. JB Pritzker during a press conference on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

A Peoria agency distributed emergency energy assistance funds at a rate 50 percent higher than that of other local Illinois agencies — and more money is coming.

Last year the Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity distributed $6.7 million to 7,600 households in the Peoria area. The PCCEO was one of 37 local agencies statewide to distribute the funds.

On Monday Gov. JB Pritzker announced he would continue funding emergency energy assistance programs, putting an additional $327 million into the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant Program (CSBG).

Pritzker announced the news outside the PCCEO, 711 W. McBean St.

LIHEAP helps eligible households with low income pay for home energy services including heating, gas, propane and electricity. CSBG offers eligible residents support for essential services including rent assistance, food, temporary shelter, medicine and more.

The PCCEO helps the state distribute the funds locally.

Last year, the PCCEO distributed funds at a rate 1.5 times the allocation of what Peoria's proportional share would have been, Sylvia Garcia, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, told WCBU.

In other words, the PCCEO reached 50 percent more households than other agencies, she said.

“They did a great job," Garcia said. "We know there’s a lot of need in Peoria and they did a great job.”

Peoria's high rate of fund disbursement proves the PCCEO was effective at connecting with families in need, Garcia said.

"For many families struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, these payments were a lifeline," she said.

Peoria Mayor Dr. Rita Ali said she was proud to learn the PCCEO exceeded the state's expectations in terms of how much aid a local agency could distribute in proportion to the local need.

"It makes me feel good about the investment in Peoria," she said. "And the trust, of PCCEO, as an organization that manages its money well, manages its finances well, and takes care of our people."

Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) thanked Pritzker for supplying additional funds.

She said she remembers a time when residents would camp overnight outside the PCCEO in hopes of receiving aid on their energy bills.

"People would come out and they would wait in line, outside here in this parking lot, hoping, to be able to get a meeting the next morning," she said. "They would spend the night, hoping to get some energy assistance."

The additional $327 million toward energy assistance is made possible by increased eligibility provisions by the state of Illinois, as well as $209 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Last year credits averaged $750 per household; this year, credits will average $1,000, Pritzker said.

"Overall, this $327 million investment represents a $52 million increase over last year’s programs," he said. "It’s a historic investment to meet a historic moment.”

More than 3.5 million Illinoisans could be eligible for the relief funds, Pritzker said.

Families of four earning less than $4,000 monthly are automatically eligible, Garcia said.

LIHEAP funds are available from now through May 31, 2022. To apply, go to DCEO’s website or visit helpillinoisfamilies.com.

For more information, call the state's hotline: 1-833-711-0374.

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Hannah Alani is a reporter at WCBU. She joined the newsroom in 2021. She can be reached at hmalani@ilstu.edu.