“To put the severity of this crisis in perspective, the egregious level of natural gas prices would be similar to a gallon of gasoline rising from the current $2.89 per gallon to $289 per gallon,” said Heather Viele, general manager of the Interstate Municipal Gas Agency.
Roodhouse Mayor Tom Martin said his small town south of Jacksonville is self-sufficient and has been on non-profit gas for the last century. He bought 75% of the town’s February 2021 natural gas in 2017 for $3.75 per dekatherm, but still ended up paying $470,000 for natural gas this month, which he said his residents can’t afford.
“It’s coming at the worst possible time,” said state Sen. Steve McClure, R- Springfield. “We’re dealing with COVID, we’re dealing with these extreme cold temperatures in the last couple of weeks and it’s been brutal.”
Last week, Pritzker made a statewide disaster declaration in response to the extreme cold and rising natural gas prices, which McClure said was key to helping get assistance to communities quickly before utility bills are given out to customers. Pritzker said the loan was the fastest way they could help communities deal with the problem now as opposed to waiting for federal assistance.
Pawnee Mayor Jeff Clark said he spoke with Pritzker right away about the problem and the loan towns will be receiving will allow them to spread the cost out to residents over a longer period of time so residents aren’t paying for the entire cost at once. Clark said this especially helps his elderly residents who are on fixed income.