Chicago Utility Assistance Programs for Low-Income Families


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Chicago Utility Assistance Programs.  Chicago winters can be brutal, and if you don’t plan, you could find yourself in a tough spot in the winter. That’s why it’s essential to know about some of the heating and utility assistance programs available in Chicago for low-income families. This way, when the temperatures drop (often), you’ll know where to turn for help with your heating or utility bills.

Where to Get Utility Assistance in Chicago

Many low-income families have difficulties paying for utilities during the winter months.  With the difficulties the US has been experiencing after the pandemic and inflation, this winter may be highly challenging.  Many may need emergency assistance with a utility bill or rent.



However, there are utility assistance programs in Chicago, and we encourage you to reach out to them to get all the help you need.  Please do not wait until you are in danger of having your utilities disconnected to get help.   Below you can find the information you need to stay warm this winter.

Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

Chicago, residents may qualify for emergency assistance with a utility when the temperature drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit for at least three consecutive days. You may qualify for assistance through the Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP is available to households that meet income requirements.

Those applying for this program must be U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents over 65 or disabled. All family members will automatically be eligible if one household member qualifies as elderly or disabled.

* The maximum amount that can be received per family under this program is $200 per year ($1 per day). Seniors and persons with disabilities will receive an increase on that limit up to $400 if they need more help paying their bills during the heating season.
You can apply and receive assistance from this program every year when you qualify financially.

If you are eligible for LIHEAP, you will be given a voucher that can be used to pay your heating and utility bills. This voucher is only suitable for one year and can only be used with participating utility companies in your area. Suppose you need assistance paying your utility bills but do not qualify for LIHEAP. In that case, other options may be available to help you out.



Good Samaritan Initiative

The Good Samaritan Initiative provides free utility heating assistance to Chicago residents who are elderly and disabled. The City of Chicago and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) offer the program.

The program also provides energy-saving home improvements. This includes free home repairs, such as air sealing and insulation of drafty doors and windows, duct repair or replacement, water heater replacement or repair, furnace tune-up, and filter replacement.

The program is available to Chicago adults at least 60 years of age or older and/or disabled.  Eligible households can receive heating assistance once every six months. The program is available year-round, but applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Warm Neighbors, Cool Friends

Warm Neighbors, Cool Friends is a program that assists low-income individuals, seniors, and families with children at risk of hypothermia or severe cold. Eligibility is based on household income and the number of members who are 60 or older or disabled.

Households must also meet specific other requirements, such as receiving a home heating bill within the last year, not owing back payments to utility companies, not having had a furnace or boiler replaced in the past three years., or having injury due to heating emergencies. The program offers financial assistance to eligible households to pay their utility bills.

You are Eligibility for Utility Assistance:

  • You must be 60 years old or older and have a disability;
  • Live in Cook County; and
  • Have an annual income below the federal poverty level (for example, $12,140 for one person).

WORKS

This community-based organization provides emergency assistance to low-income families and individuals in the Chicago area. WORKS helps individuals and families with emergency needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, utilities, medical care, etc.

You are eligible for assistance:

  • If you must live in Chicago
  • Your gross family income is below 200% of the poverty level (you can find out what this means by searching your zip code on the website)
  • The household income cannot exceed $2,505 per month
  • You must not have received assistance from WORKS in the past 12 months. Please provide proof of residence and income.

Winter Warmth Program

The Winter Warmth Program is available to Chicago’s low-income seniors and people with disabilities. It assists those who need help with utility costs, including energy bills and rent payments, to prevent eviction. To qualify for aid through this program, you must also be a Chicago or Cook County resident (including suburbs such as Oak Park) and qualify for utility assistance.



The Winter Warmth Program can help you with household repairs and energy efficiency projects. To name just two examples of what they offer—and provide weatherization services if they can fund them at the time of your application.

The Winter Warmth Program offers weatherization services when funds are available. During the winter season, they begin accepting applications; however, other programs may provide these services year-round for those who qualify (see below).

How to Apply to  the Winter Warmer Program

Complete an application form at one of their offices. Your account receives an initial deposit within three weeks of applying if approved. After, you may make additional funds based on availability until all funds have been exhausted.  The Winter Warmth Program receives funding through donations and operates on an annual budget. For more information, go to their site.

People’s Resource Center



The People’s Resource Center (PRC)   is a non-profit organization providing financial assistance to low-income Chicago families. The PRC assists families with paying their utility bills, including electric, gas, and heating costs. The organization also helps individuals apply for government programs such as SNAP food stamps or Medicaid health insurance coverage.

The PRC provides grants directly to people who qualify based on their income level and other factors determined by their application. If you are applying for help from the PRC this year, here are some things you should know:

How does it work?  If you live in the state of Chicago and need assistance, go online to apply for assistance with utilities and fill out an application.  Still, you prefer speaking with someone over the phone. A $5 fee per household is required upfront before they take further steps toward getting anyone qualified based on income levels, etc.

Rebuilding Together

Rebuilding Together Chicago is a non-profit organization that helps low-income homeowners make repairs to their homes. This agency is dedicated to improving the situation for seniors and people with disabilities by repairing or rehabilitating the city’s homes, schools, and community facilities.

This organization provides free home repairs to families who need emergency utilities due to a disaster or emergencies such as fire, flood, etc.  They also perform minor maintenance work on homes considered “at risk” due to their age (no more than 75 years old) and condition (no more than 50% of exterior walls covered with siding).

St. Vince de Paul Center

The St. Vincent de Paul Center is a charity that assists the poor and homeless in Chicago. They have a food pantry, clothing closet, utility assistance program, and free medical clinic. The center was founded in 1889 and has partnered with Catholic Charities to provide food, clothing, and shelter for those who need it most! How can you qualify for this assistance?

If you are interested in receiving assistance, fill out an application at 1633 N Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60614. Please provide proof of identity and address, and income. Phone: 773-871-4700 or by visiting their website.

Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP)

The Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) provides free energy-saving products and services to low-income homeowners, renters, and others.



This program helps people save money on their utility bills while improving the comfort of their homes. The federal government funds it under legislation established in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s.

The IHWAP Program offers:

  • Weatherization services
  • Professional home inspections for appropriate work orders for minor repairs such as drywall patches or holes in walls or ceilings, which may need spackling or painting
  • New water heater installation, if needed after a professional inspection finds it necessary.
  • Air conditioning unit replacement or repair, if needed after a professional inspection finds it necessary.
  • Vinyl siding repair to minor damage caused by storms, hail, etc. Roof repairs such as shingle replacements or blown-off roof panels.

You can visit their website if interested in applying for the program.

Conclusion

The city of Chicago sponsors agencies, and non-profits or private organizations operate others. They each have eligibility requirements. As a Chicago resident, if you need emergency help with a utility, apply to the above agencies for assistance.  Priority is given to families with children, families with a disabled person and the elderly.

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