Hunter heat 060923SPRINGFIELD — Residents struggling to pay their gas or electric bills will not face life-threatening utility shutoffs on hot days thanks to an initiative sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter that was signed into law Friday.

“This is a major victory for public health and the people of Illinois,” said Hunter (D-Chicago). “Heat is extremely dangerous, and families should not be put in harm’s way due to their financial circumstances.”

The legislation amends the Public Utilities Act to prohibit a utility company from terminating gas or electric service due to nonpayment of bills on days when the forecasted temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, or when the National Weather Service issues a heat watch, advisory or warning for the location of the residence. Previously, disconnections were prohibited during temperatures 95 degrees or hotter and did not take into account humidity or heat index.

Older adults, young children and people with chronic medical conditions are at high risk of heat-related illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 700 people in the U.S. die from extreme heat each year. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when the body is unable to properly cool itself and can happen even if a person is sitting or lying in a hot room.

“This law recognizes the inherent threat of extreme heat and the disproportionate impact it has on our most vulnerable communities,” Hunter said. “I am pleased to have worked with Attorney General Raoul on putting these protections in place as heat waves become more frequent and fatal.”

House Bill 1541 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2024.