PIPER CITY, Ill. (WCIA)- Small-town businesses were hit hard during the pandemic and are hurting even more with inflation. Because of that and a rise in operating costs, the only restaurant in Piper City may close.  

The owner of Izz Azz, Randi Spiess, has tried everything to help, like turning off the ac and closing early, but it’s not enough. Now they are asking for help. 

“I have breakdowns every other day probably,” said Spiess 

Izz Azz is the only place for the community to gather.  

“This is so much more, it’s a part of our lives here in these small towns,” said Tim Nuss, Ford County Board Member. 

Since Spiess opened the restaurant in 2016 operational costs have gone up $3,000. 

“It was about 7,000 dollars a month and now it’s up to about 11 thousand dollars a month,” said Spiess. 

Her electricity bill, which once was under 500 dollars, has tripled.  

“In June it was $2,150 dollars,” said Spiess. 

Each month she wonders if she’ll be able to stay in business  

 “It’s extremely hard, everything’s gone up so much that we can’t afford it, nobody is going to pay $15 dollars for a hamburger in a small town,” said Spiess. 

She’s not the only one struggling 

 “I can take you to any small town in my district this is going on everywhere,” said Nuss. 

Nuss says he’s trying everything he can to help. He’s even reached out to Representative Tom Bennett. 

 “He’s looking for programs grants or anything else we can get,” said Nuss. 

Ameren’s Director of Communications, Tucker Kennedy, says the price of energy has spiked, and the cost has been passed onto customers  

 “We just don’t have right now enough energy to meet the demand on our grid, that’s what cost wholesale energy prices to increase dramatically,” said Kennedy. 

 Kennedy says they can’t control the prices. They just deliver energy and do not generate it. 

 “We understand what is happening and we’re frustrated by it as well as our customers are,” said Kennedy. 

 And while he couldn’t talk about Spiess’ restaurant, Kennedy says Ameren wants to help its customers. 

 “We want to work with any of our customers that are having difficulties or facing challenges paying their energy bills because of the dramatic increase we’ve seen in power supply prices,” said Kennedy.  

Spiess says shes reached out to ameren and is hasn’t had any luck.  

Ameren says energy costs are now at an all-time high. Some issues are inflation, an increase in demand, and conflict in Eastern Europe.They also say we’re transitioning away from fossil fuel, without enough renewable energy to make up the difference. 

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