SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Low-income families reliant on state and federal assistance to pay energy bills were out of luck this summer, and they could be out of luck in the coming winter as well.

Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity spokeswoman Marcelyn Love says funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, could be slashed by up to 60 percent this season. That news comes after there wasn’t any money for cooling assistance this summer.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

“While we would have liked to have offered services both in the summer and in the winter, our priority is the winter program,” she said. “We have maintained as much funding as possible to help protect people this winter.”

Senior citizens and those with disabilities can begin applying for assistance this comning Thursday. Low-income families with children can begin applying Oct. 1, and everyone else can begin applying Nov. 1.

Love says people should apply as soon as possible.

“Winters in Illinois can be brutal, and while we may not be thinking about that right now, it does come around very quickly, and we want to do everything possible to keep people warm and safe this winter,” she said.

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