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Ameren Illinois Utilities Reach Out to Customers With Special Payment Plans, Assistance Programs

March 31 Deadline for 10% Down Payment Offer

PEORIA, Ill., March 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ameren Illinois Utilities are reaching out to residential customers with past due account balances to help them take advantage of Ameren Illinois Utility payment plans as well as the Illinois utility rate relief programs.

"The economic downturn has placed an additional burden on many of our customers," said Stan Ogden, vice president for Customer Service and Public Relations for the Ameren Illinois Utilities. "We want to make certain our customers know about the options that can provide them with the financial help they need in paying their electric and natural gas bills.

"To make certain our customers with past due balances know about these assistance programs, we are reaching out to them by phone and by mail. We are offering to assist local community action agencies by sending customer service representatives to their offices to support this customer outreach initiative," Ogden said.

Ameren Illinois Utilities customers may establish a payment plan now through March 31 by paying just 10 percent of the past due balance, with the remainder to be paid along with current bills in monthly installments. Beginning April 1, customers will be required to pay 25 percent of the past due balance before establishing a payment plan. To establish a payment plan, customers may call their Ameren Illinois Utility - AmerenCIPS: 1-888-789-2477; AmerenCILCO: 1- 888-672-5252, and AmerenIP: 1-800-755-5000

Ameren Illinois Utility customers can still benefit from two Illinois rate relief programs that are part of the $1-billion state rate relief package enacted into law in August 2007.

The Bill Payment Assistance Program now provides energy assistance grants of up to $300 to low-income electric customers with household incomes of 150 percent to 200 percent of the energy assistance federal poverty level. These grants are provided through the local community action agencies that administer the Low income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The second program is the Hardship Assistance for Residential Customers. The local community action agencies distribute these program funds based on the hardship experienced by customers with household incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The agencies may award grants of up to $600 per household.

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

Some customers also 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.

Also, the Ameren Illinois Utilities are partnering with the Illinois Department of Health & Family Services in the development of a Percentage-of-Income Payment Program (PIPP) pilot. The pilot targets Ameren Illinois Utilities low-income electric space heat customers to determine if paying a percentage of income will make energy more affordable and develop regular bill-paying habits.

The Dollar More and Warm Neighbors programs may help eligible Ameren Illinois Utilities residential customers with utility bills. Customers should call their Ameren Illinois Utility for information. Ameren Illinois Utilities customers may make contributions to these programs to help their neighbors.

Customers with past-due balances are encouraged to contact their Ameren Illinois Utility to establish 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 establish 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.

"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 certified medical condition or special need who receives a disconnection notice should immediately contact their Ameren Illinois Utility.

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 (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.

Customers also can learn how to spend less by using less energy when they visit ActOnEnergy.com.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities have been providing safe, reliable energy delivery service for more than a century. The Ameren Illinois Utilities deliver energy to 1.2 million electric and more than 840,000 natural gas customers in about 1,000 communities, while helping customers spend less by using less energy and communities grow through economic development initiatives.

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities

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