New 400 dollar grants may keep power on

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - Chicago Commonwealth Edison customers disconnected for nonpayment - but ineligible for low-income assistance - could get one-time $400 grants, thanks to a $1.5 million plan unveiled recently to prevent a repeat of a Rogers Park fire that killed six children.

"A person can't live... for six months without electricity, especially a family like that with so many young children.... We don't want another incident like that to take place," Mayor Daley said.

Five children from the Ramirez family and a toddler staying with them died at 7706 N. Marshfield in a September 2006 fire touched off by a candle used to help light a three-bedroom apartment. The electricity had been shut off - the family hadn't paid the bill.

The family's plight touched a nerve with Daley, who lashed out at the landlord for ignoring his "moral responsibility" to assist a family in need.

The mayor also demanded a new level of cooperation from ComEd officials, who agreed to provide City Hall with the addresses where electric service has been disconnected for nonpayment so city departments can make well-being checks.

The "PowerUp" Fund is an example of that cooperation.

The fund will be financed by a $1 million contribution from ComEd and $500,000 from the city. Edison also plans to add a feature to its monthly bills - patterned after Peoples Energy's Share the Warmth program - to make it easy for residential customers to contribute .The utility has agreed to match the first $500,000 worth of check-off contributions from customers.

ComEd Chairman and CEO Frank Clark estimated that the fund, potentially worth $2.5 million, would be enough to restore service to as many as 4,000 to 5,000 customers who earn too much money to qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

ComEd customers can apply for the $400 grants at the offices of the Community Economic Development Association of Cook County.


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