CHICAGO (CBS) — The brutal winter temperatures have proven to be a real financial hardship for many homeowners, prompting ComEd to set aside $10 million to help customers in need pay their electric bills.

CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports January was one of the coldest months in its service area in the past 50 years, and phone lines have been ringing around the clock from customers having trouble paying their electric bills.

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As a result, ComEd said it will dedicate $10 million to help customers facing financial hardship.

“The $10 million will be distributed through our CARE programs, which help customers – including seniors, veterans and activated members of the armed services – keep the lights on, and the power running,” said ComEd senior vice president Fidel Marquez.

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ComEd also will ease the requirements for programs that offer financial aid for low-income families, active-duty military personnel, veterans, and seniors.

Officials said utility bills for January 2014 were 6 percent higher than January 2013.

The utility also will offer flexible payment plans and other assistance for customers who are having trouble paying electric bills that are higher than expected due to the extreme cold.

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To get more information on ComEd’s CARE programs, call 888-806-CARE, or visit their website.