When Tough Times Hit Customers, ComEd is Here to Support ThemSeptember 20, 2022
With rising inflation and ongoing economic fallout from the pandemic still affecting households across America, 56% of Americans report experiencing financial hardship in 2022. Fortunately for families facing these challenges, there are resources available to help them navigate household costs, including their electric bills.
In Illinois, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides eligible households with billing assistance that they do not have to pay back. The level of funding is determined based on household income and size – to qualify, households must have an annual income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, this translates to about $4,625 of income a month less before taxes.
“We know that customers are experiencing challenging times, but regardless of the duration of the hardship, once you are experiencing a hardship, instead of holding off, we want to encourage customers to contact ComEd as soon as possible to see what options are available to them,” said Aarian Smith, manager of support services at ComEd.
Homeowners, renters and subsidized housing tenants are eligible to apply for assistance. Customers do not have to be behind on their bills to receive a grant. Applicants do not need a Social Security number to apply, and the information is not shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
To connect eligible customers for LIHEAP – ComEd works proactively with more than 38 Community Action Agencies to connect customers to programs like LIHEAP. The electric utility also administers a Supplemental Arrearage Reduction Program (SARP), which is available to ComEd residential customers who qualify to receive energy assistance benefits from LIHEAP. In 2021 alone, ComEd worked with these agencies to connect more than 225,000 eligible customers to more than $146 million in energy assistance.
In Cook County, which sees the largest share of LIHEAP funding in the state, and where 13.7% of the population lives below the poverty line as of 2020, ComEd works closely with community partners like the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA), who has over 80 Partner intake sites in Cook County, to help customers who need assistance paying their bills or may have been disconnected apply for LIHEAP.
“Customers who are in imminent threat of disconnection or have been disconnected from one of the utilities are eligible for higher amounts of LIHEAP assistance to prevent disconnection or get them restored,” said Latoya Butler, Director of Energy Services for Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc. (CEDA). “Some of the folks on the higher end of the income guideline bracket don’t realize that they are eligible to apply even if they aren’t past due or at risk for service disconnection. We’re here to help determine their eligibility,” said Latoya.
Additional energy-assistance options:
In addition to state and federal grants, ComEd offers residential customers a number of bill-assistance options, including:
- A flexible deferred payment arrangement of up to 12 months for eligible residential customers with a past-due balance. Make a down payment on the amount owed, and the balance is paid through installments in addition to your regular monthly bill.
- Budget billing, which provides a predictable monthly payment based on your electricity usage from the last 12 months.
- Flexible payment options like extensions on a customer’s due date by 21 calendar days.
- High-usage alerts, which enable customers to receive alerts when their usage is trending higher than normal to help manage overall energy use, and energy-management tips to help customers manage energy use to save money now and on future energy bills.
- Energy-efficiency offerings, including services and incentives designed for income-eligible residential customers, that can help reduce energy use now and in the long term.
Visit www.comed.com/paymentassistance for eligibility guidelines and information on how to apply.
“Folks may think they don’t qualify for our programs, but they should not disqualify themselves before they apply,” said Linda Rhodes, senior manager of customer assistance and advocacy at ComEd. “We understand everybody is going through different situations and we are here to help make it easy for families to understand eligibility for critical assistance to keep their household afloat during this tough time.”
Rhodes and the customer assistance team at ComEd strongly urge customers to use the new Smart Assistance Manager (SAM) to assess what programs they may be eligible for. SAM is ComEd’s online self-service tool that can match customers with the payment-assistance programs and energy-efficiency offerings that can help them manage their electric bills.
Support options are generated based on household information the customer voluntarily provides, such as household size and income. Customers who create an online account through ComEd’s “My Account” tool can log in while using SAM to get even more personalized, targeted results.
Any customer experiencing difficulty paying their electric bill can learn more about energy-assistance options, including how to apply, at ComEd.com/PaymentAssistance.