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North Shore Gas warms homes and hearts

RufinSalgado Waukegan case worker with CAP Lake County (left) helps Lanier Howard-Chavez Waukegan apply for LIHEAP Illinois Home WeatherizatiAssistant Program.

Rufina Salgado of Waukegan, a case worker with the CAP of Lake County (left), helps Lanier Howard-Chavez of Waukegan apply for LIHEAP and Illinois Home Weatherization Assistant Program. | Michael Schmidt - mschmidt@stmedianetwork.com

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How to apply

To apply for LIHEAP, call CAP at (847) 249-4330. North Shore Gas customers can visit www.northshoregasdelivery.com for a list of application sites and guidelines, also for tips on conservation and how to manage their energy bills. To apply, one must have proof of household income for the last 30 days, a copy of current bill and Social Security numbers for everyone in the household.

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Over 30 volunteers from North Shore Gas took the initiative to weatherize as many as 25 homes in Waukegan Saturday to prepare them for the inevitable, upcoming frigid weather.

The Home Energy Assistance Together program (HEAT) by North Shore, in its 7th year, was a two-pronged effort to help area residents, especially those of low-income, to deal with rising energy costs.

In the other effort, Lake County Community Action Partnership (CAP) hosted a fair at its headquarters to assist needy families in applying for financial assistance to pay for their utility bills under a program called Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP). In addition to North Shore Gas, co-sponsors for the fair included ComEd and Citizens Utility Board. Applications for grants were accepted at the fair.

Under LIHEAP, which is funded by the federal and state governments, qualified homeowners may receive $350-$600 to help pay their gas bills for the winter; and $90-$170 for their electric bills, according to Mary Lockhart White, CAP executive director.

In addition, North Shore Gas customers can apply for the utility’s Share the Warmth program which offers matching grants of up to $200. The program is funded by North Shore Gas, its employees and customers.

“We see higher number of people in need of assistance because of the economy,” said White.

North Shore Gas “HEAT” volunteers applied plastic sheeting on windows, caulked around doors and windows, and generally weather-stripped the 25 homes. The company also gave the families carbon monoxide detectors and advised them on conservation, how to manage energy costs and apply for assistance with their energy bills.

Both programs were lauded by Waukegan 1st Ward alderman Sam Cunningham.

“Many homes in my ward are older homes in need of weatherization. There are many low-income families who need help,” he said.

The North Shore HEAT program, he said, “will conserve energy and help people with their energy bills.”

Under the LIHEAP, qualified needy families not only will receive grants to help them pay outstanding bills, but also see their service reconnected, if service was cut off due to non-payment of bills.

North Shore Gas has 145,000 residential customers. Less than one percent of them are currently disconnected, according to a company spokeswoman.

“North Shore Gas strongly encourages all customers who are currently disconnected and struggling financially to see if they meet the eligibility requirement and apply for a LIHEAP grant while funds last,” said Bonnie Johnson.

According to Johnson, during the 2009 heating season, about 4,400 North Shore Gas customers received LIHEAP grants, totaling $2.3 million.

Under the federal poverty guidelines, one may be eligible for a grant if one’s annual income is $16,245. For a family of four, the threshold is $33,075. Applications are accepted until April next year, said White.

We hope to make this a year-around program,” said White.

How to apply

To apply for LIHEAP, call CAP at (847) 249-4330. North Shore Gas customers can visit www.northshoregasdelivery.com for a list of application sites and guidelines, also for tips on conservation and how to manage their energy bills. To apply, one must have proof of household income for the last 30 days, a copy of current bill and Social Security numbers for everyone in the household.



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