IL Economic Department: Knox County residents needing LIHEAP assistance ‘will be served’

GALESBURG, Illinois - Despite delayed information and unanswered calls, Knox County residents will be getting energy assistance this season, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Galesburg resident Linda Hamlin has been using the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, for nearly 20 years.

"When it hit winter time last year, it was almost $200 and if it wasn't for LIHEAP I might have not made the bills," said Hamlin.

This year, she heard it's not going to be available in her county, "I called the 800 number and it says Knox County is not getting the LIHEAP funding this year," said Hamlin.

Hamlin says she usually fills out her paperwork in September and gets nearly $600 to pay her winter energy bills by November.

Recipients can get LIHEAP assistance for an unlimited amount of years as long as they meet certain income guidelines, according to a spokesperson from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.

She has yet to hear back from the Carver Community Action Agency which distributes the money, "It's scary now thinking, I may lose my home," said Hamlin.

"I tried for two hours this morning and the phone just kept ringing," said Kim Myers, Administrative Asst. at Knox County Veteran's Assistance Commission.

The Knox County Veteran's Assistance Commission says it will be able to help only a select few veterans.

"We only help military veterans that have an honorable or general discharge and if they have children living in the household we can't help them, they have to go to public aid," said Myers.

Myers says she's already received many calls and will help who she can, "It is sad, I don't know what people are going to do."

For people like Hamlin, she'll have to wait to see what she'll be able to afford.

"What's gonna happen next month? What's gonna happen the month after ? Waiting on the power bills to see where they go," said Hamlin.

On Tuesday, November 28th, News 8 went to the building where the Carver Community Action Agency is and the elevator floor is deactivated because nobody was there.  News 8 also called the agency, no one answers and it just goes to voice mail.

The following day, the media relations director for the state's commerce and economic opportunity department issued the following statement:

"Carver Community Action Agency mismanaged LIHEAP resources and failed to fulfill their obligation to the people of Illinois. After multiple attempts to remedy the issues, the Department of Commerce suspended the agency.  The suspension allows the Department to designate another provider to administer this much-needed service to some of the state's most vulnerable citizens. The new provider has been identified to serve Knox County, and we continue to work alongside utility providers like Ameren to ensure minimum disruptions in services. While we recognize that this is an inconvenience, LIHEAP recipients in Knox County will be served."