July 20, 2015

Cooling Assistance for Low-Income Seniors Eliminated During Anniversary of Deadly Heat Wave

CHICAGO, IL – Governor Bruce Rauner marked this month’s 20th anniversary of the Chicago heat wave by withholding funds that provide cooling assistance to the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Many of the 1995 heat wave’s 739 fatalities were low-income and elderly, the same demographic that receives heating and cooling assistance through LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) and PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan). According to the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance, in 2014 LIHEAP provided assistance for 23% of elderly households in Illinois.  Through this program, seniors have been able to meet their basic needs, as well as protect their health during the summer’s hottest months.

At the beginning of this month, participants in these programs received notices stating that they will no longer receive energy assistance, just as the weather began heating up and they need air-conditioning the most. This spring, the Governor chose to discontinue funding to LIHEAP and PIPP during the ongoing budget standoff in Springfield.

“I’ve relied on funding through PIPP and I was alarmed when I received notice this month that my assistance was cutoff.  I’m worried that I will have to choose between groceries and my prescriptions or air-conditioning as the weather gets hotter” said Helen King, 80 years old, of Columbus Park.

Barbara Franklin, President of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans said, “In light of the anniversary of the deadly 1995 heat wave, we’re calling on Governor Rauner to reinstate funding to these crucial programs so that Illinois’ seniors with low-incomes have the ability to cool their homes.”

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