State to issue low interest loans to small towns stuck with exorbitant energy bills

National News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Citing “skyrocketing electric bills” after a “brutal winter freeze” gripped much of the nation last week, Governor JB Pritzker announced a $15 million low-interest loan program to assist small downstate cities and towns pay for the “catastrophic energy pricing surge.”

“Pleasant Hill was charged more than 100 times the natural cost of natural gas,” Pritzker said Tuesday afternoon at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. 

State senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield) thanked Pritzker’s attention to detail and concern for the downstate communities that were hammered by the pricing surge.

“Times like this are bipartisan times where we can all come together,” McClure said. 

Pritzker declared an emergency disaster last week, opening up new avenues for potential federal aid to reimburse the expenses of the disaster. However, since federal funds cannot be used to pay utility bills, the loans will be issued through the Illinois Finance Authority.  

“Thank goodness that we have this Governor and his staff that is willing to do something,” Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) said, though she acknowledged the loan program won’t fix the root cause of the issue.

Scherer called on ERCOT, the electric grid management agency in Texas, to ramp up pressure on the energy suppliers to hold them accountable for the power outages. 

The local municipalities will eventually pay the loan back to the state at a low rate that is scheduled to be determined on Thursday, Pritzker administration officials said. The loans will be paid back over years, allowing local municipalities to spread out their costs over time and avoid the immediate short term impact and late fees that could be tacked on to the price. 

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