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Ameren Illinois Utilities Encourage Customers With Past Due Balances to Seek Assistance, Establish Payment Plans

PEORIA, Ill., March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ameren Illinois Utilities today encouraged residential customers with past due account balances to take advantage of Ameren Illinois Utility payment plans and the Illinois rate relief and assistance programs.

"Our customers need to be aware of the several options that can help those with past due balances," said Stan Ogden, vice president for Customer Service and Public Relations for the Ameren Illinois Utilities

Ameren Illinois Utility customers still can benefit from two Illinois rate relief programs that are part of the $1-billion state rate relief package enacted into law last August.

The Bill Payment Assistance Program provides energy assistance grants to low-income customers. For example, an individual may have an annual income of $15,600 to $20,800, while a family of four may have an annual household income of $31,800 to $42,400. The grants are provided through the local community action agencies that administer the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The local community action agencies distribute funds from the Hardship Assistance for Residential Customers program based on the actual hardship experienced by customers. Eligibility rules allow an individual customer with an annual income of up to $41,600 and a family of four with an annual income of up to $84,800 to apply for hardship assistance.

Customers may call 1-800-252-8643 to obtain the name and address of their local community action agency.

Some customers may be eligible for assistance through LIHEAP, which is administered by the local community action agencies. LIHEAP provides energy services payment assistance to eligible low-income households, elderly persons and people with disabilities. Grants are based on the number of people in a household, total income and the type of energy used.

There also are two Ameren Illinois Utility programs that can help people with their energy bills. The Dollar More program can help eligible AmerenCILCO and AmerenCIPS customers pay their electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and propane costs. The program is administered through a network of human services agencies. For information on applying for funds, AmerenCILCO customers should call 1-888-672-5252 and AmerenCIPS customers should call 1-888-789-2477.

AmerenIP customers who are in danger of losing their primary source of heat may be eligible to receive assistance through the Warm Neighbors program. For information, call AmerenIP at 1-800-755-5000.

Customers with past-due balances are encouraged to contact their Ameren Illinois Utility to discuss a bill payment plan. Eligible customers will be required to make a down payment in order to begin a payment plan that allows customers to pay past-due amounts over an extended period of time while paying current bill amounts. AmerenCILCO and AmerenCIPS customers should call 1-877-263-7363 and AmerenIP customers should call 1-800-750-7026.

Residential customers who have past due balances and have failed to established a payment plan or are not honoring a payment plan agreement will be subject to service disconnection beginning in April.

A service disconnection will only occur after the Ameren Illinois Utilities have attempted to contact the customer and a final service disconnection notice has been issued. A customer who receives a service disconnection notice is urged to immediately contact their Ameren Illinois Utility at the phone number on the notice.

"Our goal is to avoid service disconnections," Ogden said. "We will only disconnect service when every reasonable effort to establish a payment plan or otherwise receive payment of past-due balance has failed."

A customer with a unique medical condition or special need who receives a disconnection notice should immediately contact his or her Ameren Illinois Utility.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities have not disconnected residential customers for non-payment of bills since November 2007.

Many customers find they can better manage their energy bills by enrolling in the Budget Billing plan. This plan allows eligible residential customers to pay the same amount each month. By enrolling now, eligible customers can begin leveling out their monthly payments. The plan allows customers to pay an average monthly bill amount based on the last 12 months of usage. The payment level is periodically reviewed and adjusted as necessary. On the 12th month, the account is reviewed to calculate the difference between the amount of energy used during the year and the amount paid under Budget Billing. If the amount paid exceeds the actual cost of providing the energy, the customer receives a credit. If the amount billed is less than the actual cost of providing the energy, the customer is billed for the difference.

Customers may enroll in Budget Billing by visiting Ameren's Web site (http://www.ameren.com/) or by calling their Ameren Illinois Utility company (AmerenCIPS: 1-888-789-2477; AmerenCILCO: 1- 888-672-5252, and AmerenIP: 1-800-755-5000). Customers may enroll in the program or drop out at any time. There is no cost to enroll in Budget Billing.

The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 840,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.

SOURCE: The Ameren Illinois Utilities

CONTACT: Leigh Morris, +1-217-535-5228, or Neal Johnson,
+1-309-677-5284, both of The Ameren Illinois Utilities

Web site: http://www.ameren.com/