Peoples Gas, after reporting record profits, wipes out balances for thousands with overdue bills

Customers can apply for assistance until Tuesday through the nonprofit Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County or directly through People Gas.

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Peoples Gas, which has had record profits but seen customers struggle to pay their bills, is wiping out overdue bill balances for thousands of customers in the Chicago area.

Peoples Gas, which has had record profits but seen customers struggle to pay their bills, is wiping out overdue bill balances for thousands of customers in the Chicago area.

Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Peoples Gas is helping thousands of Chicago-area customers cover their overdue heating bills, including by wiping out balances for about 12,000 residents.

Thanks to increased federal funding and state aid, those balances are expected to be cleared by the end of June, according to the utility company.

Peoples Gas has seen record profits yet has the most customers struggling to pay their bills of any Chicago-area utility, with the South and West sides hit hardest, the Chicago Sun-Times reported last month. A Sun-Times analysis found that nearly half of all households in some Chicago ZIP codes were behind on their gas bills this spring.

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Customers have until Tuesday to apply for assistance in fully paying off their balance through the nonprofit Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County or directly through People Gas.

There is an income eligibility requirement to help ensure that the aid goes to those who need it most, according to Peoples Gas spokesperson David Schwartz.

For information on applying, go online to cedaorg.net/find-services/gas-and-electric/.

Peoples Gas customers have already received $46 million in assistance since last fall, Schwartz said, adding that spikes in natural gas prices have caused springtime bills to balloon as well.

That’s why, he said, “We want as many people who are qualified and who need the help to get it.”

“When a worldwide spike in natural gas prices drove up heating bills across Illinois and the country, we made sure customers having a tough time paying bills had help,” Peoples Gas CEO Charles Matthews said in a written statement.

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