To increase access to financial assistance options that can help income-eligible customers pay their electric bills, while creating local employment opportunities, ComEd has returned with its Community Energy Assistance Ambassador (CEAA) program.
First introduced in 2020 in response to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, CEAA is a community-based outreach and awareness program that continues to support families in communities hardest hit by the economy. Each year, the program provides temporary, part-time employment to approximately 100 residents from INVEST South/West neighborhoods. These individuals receive training, then help educate neighbors about bill-assistance options available through virtual and in-person events.
Entering the 2022-23 winter season, CEAAs previously reached out to approximately 1,800 families; 27% of whom received a total of more than $59,000 in assistance. Since its inception, the program has provided employment to approximately 300 Chicago-area residents.
“In recent years, a succession of financial challenges has created hardships for an increasing number of customers – many of whom have never before needed financial assistance,” said Nichole Owens, ComEd vice president of customer channels. “To meet the needs of these customers, we continue to innovate to connect as many families and individuals as possible with the assistance they need. The creation of CEAA is just one example of how we partner with local communities to meet customers where they are.”
CEAAs are trained to play a crucial role in informing community members about the options available to help them address past-due balances on their energy bills, and access ways to better manage their energy use. This includes promoting residential customer awareness and enrollment in governmental financial-assistance options such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), as well as ComEd’s bill-assistance and energy-efficiency options.
To implement the CEAA program, ComEd works with the Chatham Business Association (CBA), who initially helped identify community institutions across INVEST South/West neighborhoods that hire, train, equip and manage CEAAs. This year, the program expanded to include additional communities of color located in some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods across northern Illinois.
“I am grateful for ComEd’s trust in CBA to manage the CEAA program,” said Melinda Kelly, CBA chairman and president. “ComEd looks to CBA to partner with reputable community organizations and stakeholders so that, together, we can provide the type of education and outreach that helps anyone access the assistance they need.”
Other bill- assistance options
For anyone facing difficulty paying their electric bill, ComEd offers the following assistance programs:
- Financial-assistance programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and ComEd’s Supplemental Arrearage Reduction Program (SARP), which is available to ComEd residential customers who qualified to receive energy-assistance benefits from LIHEAP.
- A flexible deferred payment arrangement of up to 12 months for eligible residential customers with a past-due balance. Make a down payment on the amount owed, and the balance is paid through installments in addition to your regular monthly bill.
- Budget billing, which provides a predictable monthly amount due based on your electricity usage from the last 12 months.
- Flexible payment options like extensions on a customer’s due date by 21 calendar days.
- High-usage alerts, which enable customers to receive alerts when their usage is trending higher than normal to help manage overall energy use, and energy-management tips to help customers manage energy use to save money now and on future energy bills.
- Community solar allows customers to participate in the benefits of clean solar energy without installing panels on their own homes. Participants subscribe to a solar energy project and earn credits on their monthly utility bills for their portion of the energy produced by the solar project.
- Energy-efficiency offerings, including services and incentives designed for income-eligible residential customers, that can help reduce energy use now and in the future.
To make it easier for all customers to find bill-assistance and energy-savings options, ComEd encourages customers to use its Smart Assistance Manager (SAM), an online self-service tool that matches customers with programs that can help them manage their electric bills now and into the future. Any customer experiencing a hardship or difficulty paying their electric bill can also call ComEd at 800-334-7661 (800-EDISON1), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Any organization that would like CEAAs to attend their events to educate attendees on bill-assistance options should call the CBA directly at 773-994-5006 or email melinda.kelly@CBAWorks.org.