Township aims to help residents facing power shut-offs

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Officials with Cunningham Township said they want to spread awareness about power service assistance as many people face shut-offs.

“Nearly 200 Champaign County residents face utility shut-offs by Ameren this week, putting residents at risk during a surge in COVID-19 cases locally and statewide, and as the weather gets colder,” said Danielle Chynoweth, Cunningham Township supervisor. She also mentioned this comes as many people in the community are scrambling for solutions to avoid those shut-offs.

Chynoweth said one man, Cedric Robinson, was left in the dark when his power was cut as he got ready for work on Wednesday morning. Robinson had been out of work because of COVID-19 and got a new job recently. “Ameren called me on Friday and I set up a payment plan with them,” said Robinson. “I told them I get paid Wednesday and would pay then, and they said that would be fine.” Then he said his power was shut off on Wednesday morning.

Cunningham Township staff was able to use over $300 from their Angel Donor fund to get Robinson’s lights back on.

“Ameren’s so-called ‘voluntary moratorium’ for utility shut-offs is not working,” said Chynoweth. “We need the Governor to enact a statewide moratorium on all utility shut-offs now. Anything less than that will put all of us at risk.” That moratorium was expected to run through March 2021.

We recognize this continues to be a difficult time for many, which is why Ameren Illinois as voluntarily maintained the moratorium on disconnections for LIHEAP-eligible customers and customers with a medical hardship. Customers who contact us and express an economic hardship due to COVID-19 will not have their power disconnected.

Through the Ameren Illinois Fresh Start program, we are offering direct assistance to help qualified residential customers reduce or eliminate a past-due account balance.

To date, we have distributed more than $9 million to aid customers who have expressed economic hardship due to COVID-19.

Funding is still available for those residential customers who meet the eligibility and income guidelines. In addition, we are continuing to offer extended payment arrangements of up to 24 months for those customers having trouble paying their bills.

Marcelyn Love, Communications Executive – Ameren Illinois

Ameren officials said those covered by the moratorium include:

  • Customers with adverse health conditions (including households recovering from COVID-19)
  • Those eligible for assistance through Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) (This program covers those making up to 200% of the poverty level.)
  • Customers experiencing hardship caused by COVID-19

The list of shut-offs for this week was at 193, according to Chynoweth. “Our team mailed every Urbana household and canvassed several dozen to offer help.”

A flyer was sent to 73 households in the Cunningham Township. Those residents were facing shut-offs but the Township wanted them to know they have options.

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