SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - Earlier in February, a majority of the country was in a deep freeze, and many American towns saw the price of natural gas rise exponentially.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it's a crisis we're seeing not only nationwide, but right here in central Illinois communities.

"Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and other Midwestern states have seen gas prices skyrocket," Pritzker said. "The village of Riverton, with a population of about 3,500 people, got a gas bill for last week alone for $700,000."

During the month of February, natural gas prices surged. The mayor of Roodhouse, Thomas Martin, said this left many small towns out in the cold.

"To give you some idea, for us in January, we paid $60,850 for gas," Martin said. "For February, we're estimated to be at $475,000."

This massive increase influenced state officials to develop a new loan program to provide rural communities with financial support.  

"It's a low interest $15 million dollar loan program for impacted communities to support a manageable payment program for the record high utility costs," Pritzker said.

It doesn't end there. Sen. Steve McClure (R- Jacksonville) said officials are also calling upon the federal government.

"There needs to be a federal investigation," McClure said. "It looks like there might be some price gouging here."

The money from the program will go directly to municipalities like Pawnee. Mayor Jeff Clark said these funds will provide a lifeline to small towns.

"With this loan program, it's going to allow us to recoup our money," Clark said. "Not over months or weeks; we can do this over years."

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