ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The current cold weather means that Illinois residents are paying a lot more to heat their homes this winter, but there is help out there.

Folks across the stateline are seeing a big hike in their utility bills, as both Nicor and ComEd have admitted that their bills are up.

However, a Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or “LIHEAP,” is available.

“There is no discrimination in how cold it gets and how much something costs, right? They don’t care who you are. The weather is what it is, the rates are what they are,” said Owen Carter, deputy director of program operations for the City of Rockford.

Carter knows that there are people who need help with their utilities. He hopes that weekly information sessions on “LIHEAP” will point them in the right direction.

“After a certain date or a certain temperature, they can’t disconnect you,” Carter said. “The problem is, what about low-income families who are already disconnected?”

The program gives Illinois residents a credit on their utility bills. This credit can help with past due amounts or be used toward future bills.

“People seeing these high bills may get discouraged, they may get really stressed,” said Jim Chilsen, communications director for the Citizens Utility Board. “People should know that that energy efficiency is about taking safe actions to reduce your utility bills and still stay safe and warm.”

Chilsen said that residents should “weatherize” their doors and windows to keep their bill down. They should keep their thermostat at 68 degrees when they are at home, but they can knock it down 10 degrees when they leave or are asleep. However, they should never go below 55 degrees.

Carter said that no one should suffer to choose whether to put food on the table or heat their home.

“So, what we would like to do is work within our ability, utilizing funds that we received in order to help as many people as we can restore, or continue heating, their home throughout the winter months,” he said.

Information sessions are every Wednesday until the end of March for those in Boone and Winnebago Counties. Find details on upcoming meeting locations and eligibility below:

The LIHEAP Team will be at the following locations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
February 1 – Rockford Today Network 4437 E. State St.
February 8 – Washington Park Community Center 3617 Delaware St.
February 15 – Northwest Community Center 1325 N. Johnston Ave.
February 22 – St. Bernadette Catholic Church 2400 Bell Ave.
March 1 – Washington Park Community Center 3617 Delaware St.
March 8 – Rockford Today Network 4437 E. State St.
March 15 – Providence Baptist Church – 2209 Clifton Ave.
March 22 – St. Bernadette Catholic Church 2400 Bell Ave.
March 29 – Providence Baptist Church – 2209 Clifton Ave.

Be sure to bring the following documents with you:
 Photo ID (driver`s license, State issued ID, work or school ID or FOID card)
 Proof of 30-Day GROSS income (for ALL household members 18+, this includes TANF, child support, SSI or SSD, SSDI, etc.). If anyone 18+ in the household claims zero income, they must show proof of public benefits (i.e., SNAP, public housing verification or a letter from someone who assist you financially).
 Current (most recent) Heating and Electric Bills (Need both front and back and if utilities are included in your rent, bring a copy of your lease)
 Social Security Cards for all household members (must be original, no copies. Birth certificates accepted for children under 6 months).