A thermometer with a high temperature in front of a sunny orange cityscape.SPRINGFIELD — Beginning Jan. 1, residents will see expanded protections from utility disconnections on days of extreme heat, thanks to a new law from State Senator Mattie Hunter.

“For people who fall behind on their bills, having their utilities shut off on an extremely hot day can have dire consequences,” said Hunter (D-Chicago). “By recognizing the dangers of heat and the value in access to air conditioning and proper refrigeration, we are protecting some of our state’s most vulnerable.”

The Public Utilities Act — which prohibits utility shutoffs on days where the temperature is above 95 degrees Fahrenheit — will now include extreme heat events, factoring in humidity and the heat index. On days when the forecasted temperature is 90 degrees or above, or when the National Weather Service issues a heat watch, advisory or warning, residents’ utilities cannot be shut off, even if they are behind on paying their bills.

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. When utilities are shut off, residents lose access to life-saving cooling methods, refrigeration for food and medicine and electricity to power essential devices.

“Illinois weather is unpredictable. This law will lead to greater safety on the hottest days, particularly during the summer months,” said Hunter.

House Bill 1541 goes into effect Jan. 1.