Utility bills are increasing, causing inflation frustration | How you can get some relief

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, September 30, 2022
Utility bills are increasing, causing inflation frustration | How you can get some relief
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Utility bills are increasing during this ongoing period of inflation. As temperatures drop, and heaters turn on, here is what you can do about it.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Utility bills are increasing during this ongoing period of inflation. As temperatures drop, and heaters turn on, here is what's going on and what you can do about it.

The latest consumer price index says energy costs are up nearly 24% year to year.

In the Chicago area, utility prices are surpassed the national average and new ABC News data finds that some local people are giving up food and medicine to pay their utilities.

"Everything is going up but my salary, so that's how it puts the squeeze on me paying my utility bills," said Chicagoan James Fulhorne.

In the Chicagoland area, households are paying $1.74 more for natural gas this year compared to last. And for electricity, people saw an increase of 19 cents per kilowatt, according to the US Bureau of Labor Stats.

Experts say those increases are a result of global market pressures, like the war in Ukraine, as well as recent public policy prioritizing renewable energy, such as solar and wind.

Randa Abouelmagd is expecting to pay more this winter.

"It was a luxury to keep your heater on all the time but now we're going to keep the thermostat lower maybe [and] wear warmer clothes indoors," Abouelmagd said.

The ABC News Data Team found that in the Chicago Metro Area:

  • 23.1% of households were unable to pay their energy bills in full at least once in the last year.
  • 35.1% of households reduced or forwent basic necessities, such as food or medicine, to pay an energy bill.
  • 21.2% of households kept their home at a temperature that they felt was unsafe or unhealthy.
  • "We do recognize that some of our families have to make certain sacrifices to afford their utility bills and that's why we want them to come to us, to relieve some of that debt they own," said Latoya Butler, the energy services director at CEDA.

    CEDA is one of the largest non-profit agencies in the country. Using state funding, they administer assistance programs and services to residents of Cook County. Their goal this year is to help at least 115,000 households.

    "We do expect that need to increase and we are here and ready. There are probably more people eligible than they realize," Butler said.

    CEDA administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help people pay their gas and electric. They can also help families whose utilities have been disconnected, and can cover heating repairs or replacement. The organization also helps reduce water and sewer rates, preventing disconnection and restoring water.

    Qualifying for assistance is based on household income and more people may qualify than expect to. For example, the 30 day gross income for households of four people needs to be at or below $4,625.

    "Come in now, you don't have to be disconnected or past due to receive a benefit," Butler encouraged.

    Fulhorn said he sees how people get into utility trouble.

    "The prices are outrageous. They just keep going and going and one day we won't be able to pay it," he said.

    You can reduce energy costs by unplugging electronics and chargers when not in use, using your microwave instead of the oven, sealing drafts in your home and by adjusting your temperature by just a few degrees. But keep it safe, between 68- 72 degrees.

    You can apply for CEDA's Utility Assistance Programs by calling 800-571-2332 or on their website cedaorg.net/find-services/gas-and-electric/.

  • LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) programs offer heat and electricity assistance through the DVP and PIPP programs.
  • LIHEAP FURNACE ASSISTANCE: If your household is LIHEAP eligible and your heating system isn't working properly or is red-tagged, CEDA can help repair or replace your furnace or boiler.
  • The Peoples Gas Share the Warmth program provides up to $200 towards the past due balance of your Peoples Gas bill.
  • UBR (Utility Billing Relief program): City of Chicago residents are offered a 50% reduction of the water rate, sewer rate, and water-sewer tax on your City of Chicago utility bill.
  • LIHWAP (Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program): Cook County residents, the LIHWAP program can prevent disconnection and restore water and wastewater services by applying a benefit directly to your utility account.

  • Peoples Gas Energy Saving Tips
  • ComEd Energy Saving Tips
  • Ameren Energy Saving Tips