Rep. Ford calls for pause on utility shutoffs

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Denise Abbott’s basement in Austin flooded Sunday as some parts of the Chicago area receive up to nine inches of rain. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

With hundreds of West Side residents still dealing with the fallout from last weekend’s flooding, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, is urging local utility companies to help those affected by pausing shutoffs and offering grant assistance while people handle the cost of emergency cleanup and repairs.

“When I speak with impacted residents, I hear how many are struggling to choose between paying their bills and putting food on the table,” Ford said in a statement. “Especially for those who are on a fixed income or LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), we need to show compassion and come together to help get people back on their feet. A brief moratorium will go a long way in helping our neighbors.”

Ford has been reaching out to and urging utility companies, including ComEd and Peoples Gas, to take action to support flood victims. He’s also been in contact with CEDA (Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County Inc.) and state agencies on additional ways to support residents.

Ford has been raising donations and working with local volunteers to aid seniors in the cleanup.

Chicago’s 311 system received more than 2,000 complaints of “water in basement” and “water in street” on Sunday, according to WBEZ. That’s the highest volume of flooding complaints received on a single day since 2019, the earliest year such 311 data is available from the city’s data portal.

The Austin neighborhood was especially hard hit – it was the source of one in four  basement flooding complaints during last weekend’s record rainfall.

“I’m optimistic that local utilities will do the right thing and choose to help these residents,” Ford said. “From replacing water heaters to getting new furniture, families are dealing with a lot of unexpected expenses. Let’s do what we can to help them out.”

Also working to help the thousands of Austin residents hurt by last week’s flooding, Westside Health Authority founder Jaqueline Reed, the pastor of Every Block A Village Church, “gathered local men who need the work to help their community.” She told ABC 7 she’s raised about $2,000 so far to help West Siders who have been affected by the devastating rains.

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson gathered last week with 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts outside the West Chicago Avenue Branch Library in Austin to discuss the city’s plans to provide residents with relief. Mitts said her own home was flooded; the mayor, who lives in Austin, said his home was relatively unscathed.

“People think that [alderpersons] can do everything, but I’m a human and I’m dealing with the same pain and suffering that all of my constituents are dealing with right now,” Mitts said.

“I may not see them, but I know what they’re going through. So, I’m advocating useing all the strength I have in my body to get the help we need. We need federal support. I go into these homes and see these seniors with their life savings rolling in the water. Refrigerators, food, and beds underwater. Everything they have … We need some help.” 

Mitts urged all of her constituents who have been affected by flooding to call the 311 City Services hotline to let city officials know about their experiences. This Chicago Sun-Times article explains “where to get help, how to clean up and how to file a claim.”

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