The Chicago Housing Authority is increasing the funding and availability of an utility bill assistance program, known as All Clear, that helps Chicago residents catch up on paying overdue heating and utility bills.
Chicago families who owe $500 or less on their utility or gas bills can sign up for the All Clear assistance program. They participants agree to pay half of the amount that is overdue on utility bills. Both CHA and utility companies pay the other half of the bills.
CHA began this program as a way to stretch its utility bill assistance dollars and as a way to help residents stay compliant with their home contracts and leases, thereby avoiding eviction from a housing unit. Many landlords do have the right to evict a tenant if they fall behind on their utility bills.
The assistance program gives people a chance to figure out the way to pay their utility or gas bills without the burden of the big bill that's accumulated, says Teitelman.
The aid provided from this program is a one-time assistance program, and it is designed to be a "hand up, not a hand out, says Teitelman. So it will offer some short term relief to Chicago area families, and buy them time to get back on their feet.
For this upcoming year, the partnership with ComEd continued, and in addition Peoples Gas also decided to participate in the program. Around 5,000 letters have been sent out to public housing families that are behind on their utility bills.
ComEd spokesperson Jeff Burdick says the utility company tries to do everything it can to keep customers from losing their power service, and will work with all Chicago families.