Sen. Christopher Belt

SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea) that would allow water and sewer utilities to provide an additional financial assistance program passed the Senate on Friday.

“Financial assistance policies for electric and gas services exist in Illinois, but not for water and sewer services,” Belt said. “Many families spend a large percent of their monthly income on utility services. It’s important we extend the policies to include water and sewer, especially for those who struggle to pay their bills.”

The legislation would create the Water and Sewer Low-Income Assistance Fund, authorizing the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to make payments directly to the utility providers on behalf of qualified customers. The fund is financed through the opt-in program. One-third of the available funds will go to the households with the lowest incomes. Older adults and people with disabilities will also be prioritized.

Utility providers can choose to opt in to the program, managed by DCEO, to ensure low-income residents’ water and sewer services are available and affordable.

“Utility services, like water and sewer, are the least people should be able to count on if they’re living in a home, but low-income customers often face the burden of not being able to afford their monthly utility bills,” Belt said. “This measure provides stability to those who need it.”

House Bill 414 passed the Senate with a vote of 57-0. It awaits a concurrence vote in the House.