The Salvation Army and Nicor Gas are partnering to provide emergency assistance and homelessness prevention through Shield of Caring, a new program that will help individuals and families to pay their natural gas utility bills and meet other basic needs now and well into the future.

Nicor Gas has contributed $5 million to The Salvation Army to serve those hardest hit by the pandemic. The Salvation Army will distribute the financial assistance through its corps community centers and service extension units in 37 counties in Nicor Gas’ Illinois service territory. The funding will assist residential customers who are past due on their natural gas utility bill and report a financial hardship, such as a job loss, illness, military deployment or disability.

“Shield of Caring is an expansion of our longstanding partnership with The Salvation Army and another way we can support our customers in their time of need,” said John O. Hudson III, president and CEO of Nicor Gas. “No one should have to make the tough choices about which bills to pay. As we head into cooler weather and thermostats are going up, Nicor Gas will be there to safely and reliably warm homes and hopefully warm some hearts too.”

The multiyear partnership is estimated to help more than 25,000 families. Nicor Gas residential customers with an income below 400% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible to receive a grant of up to $250 once every two years to apply to their past due account balances. A portion of the funds will also support The Salvation Army’s basic needs programs, such as emergency housing and rental assistance, food assistance and case management to help families identify barriers to self-sufficiency.

“Many continue to experience a heightened risk of falling below the poverty line due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic,” said Lt. Col. Lonneal Richardson, Divisional Commander for The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division. “We believe the most important action we can take to assist vulnerable individuals is to help keep them in their homes, especially as one in three households in Illinois is at risk of eviction. That’s why we are grateful to partner with Nicor Gas to provide much-needed emergency assistance for help paying utilities and other basic needs.”

Nicor Gas residential customers can apply online for a Shield of Caring grant at shieldofcaring.com or by calling their local Salvation Army corps community center. Since the start of the pandemic, The Salvation Army has distributed nearly $1.6 million in emergency financial grants for rent, mortgage and utilities assistance in greater Chicagoland.

The Shield of Caring Program builds onto Nicor Gas’ existing Sharing Program, which is funded by Nicor Gas and donations from its customers to offer bill payment assistance to eligible residential customers in need. The Sharing Program will continue to operate as it has since 1983, with one-time annual grants up to $400 for income eligible residential customers.

To learn more about the Shield of Caring Program and other energy assistance options available, visit nicorgas.com/energyassistance.