COVID-19, and the ensuing lockdown, has created a crisis in Illinois. This economic hardship caused by this virus is impacting employees and employers hard. The Illinois Dept. of Employment Security is being inundated with claims, and residents are finding themselves without access to their unemployment benefits. Even those receiving benefits are finding out that those benefits are not enough to meet their basic needs and pay their monthly bills. These individuals are going to be making tough financial decisions.
Companies across the United States and Illinois are voluntarily or mandatorily offering bill deferment programs, and below is a compiled list of companies that are doing so. No one should be embarrassed to be facing economic challenges – especially during these unprecedented times. The last thing any of us want to do is to admit that we are in trouble or vulnerable, but these businesses are understanding of the economic realities and want to work with residents during this time.
If you are facing a tough economic decision, please know that you are not the only one, and there are programs out there to help. Below is a list of some of the programs available:
The IL Commerce Commission (ICC) ordered that each Illinois gas, electric distribution, water, and sewer utility shall design and implement on a temporary basis more flexible credit and collections procedures and file them for consideration and approval to ensure that customers remain connected to essential utility services when the emergency status ends.
Ameren will continue normal billing for power usage, but to help, they are forgiving late payment fees for both residential and business customers. All disconnections have been temporarily suspended until further notice. For more information, click here.
Given the importance of personal hygiene in preventing the spread of coronavirus, American Water has suspended billing related service shut offs. Additionally, they are turning water service back on for customers who were previously shut-off for non-payment. For more info click here.
Local Water Utilities
If you feel you may be unable to pay your water bill or any other utility, contact your local provider or your municipality to defer your payment. It is important to contact your utility provider and work with them.
People’s gas is not disconnecting customer’s service for non-payment. Click the following links to get help with payment arrangements for home or business. They are also working to connect customers with organizations that can help provide payment assistance.
Nicor is voluntarily suspending service disconnections and waiving late payment charges until at least May 1. In the meantime, they are reminding customers to visit nicorgas.com to learn more about financial assistance or payment programs available. Visit Nicor’s billing page for more info.
LIHEAP is one resource that can be used by customers facing a hardship. LIHEAP funds do not need to be paid back.
In order to help with propane bills, the LIHEAP application period has been extended until June 30,2020, or until funding is exhausted. Residents can contact their local propane tank provider if they are unable to pay their current bill to work out a potential payment plan.
Cell Phone Carriers
The four biggest carriers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon—have all committed to not cutting off customers who can’t pay their bill because of this crisis and waiving late fees. They have also implemented a number of policies that help customers stay connected to loved ones, work, and school. Residents having trouble paying their bill should contact them to get their payment deferred:
Internet Providers are offering free access to WiFi hot spots for everyone, including non-subscribers, for 60 days. They are also providing more data to customers for no extra charge and are not disconnecting internet service or charging late fees for customers who say they cannot pay their bills. Please contact your provider if you need more assistance:
Home Mortgage Forbearance
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided the option of mortgage forbearance to homeowners with federally backed mortgages. Homeowners can request a forbearance period of six months, and they have the option to extend it another six months. The program is NOT automatic, and the onus is on the borrowers to ask be placed in forbearance. Each lender has implemented a slightly different program. For more information, borrowers should contact their lender
For federal student loans, payments will automatically stop from March 13, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020. No new payment will be due until after September 30. Federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which temporarily stops monthly loan payments. This suspension of payments will last until Sept. 30, 2020, but borrowers can still make payments if they choose. Interest on student loans is also not accruing during that time. For more information about Student Loans click here.
If you have any other questions or needs, please do not hesitate to call my office at (773) 444-0611.
We are all in this together,
Brad Stephens District 20