Photo by Brendan Wood, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0
We are entering a winter that is particularly bleak due to the continuing pandemic. Access to home heating services is more important than ever, so it is good news that an additional $54.5 million in funding will be available for heating assistance for low-income customers, as the Michigan Public Service Commission and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Dec. 3.
The funding comes in the form of grants for community service agencies that serve as conduits between the Michigan Home Energy Assistance Program and low-income households. The program can provide customers with payments toward whatever heating source they use, such as natural gas, electricity or propane, to avoid their heating being shut off. The agencies in question can also help customers make weatherization improvements to their homes that will reduce their heating bills in the first place.
The MPSC explains how customers can seek out this assistance:
- Call 211 or go to mi211.org to learn about agencies that may assist with your energy bill.
- State Emergency Relief may help low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills, assist in keeping utilities in service, or have service restored, assistance that’s available year round. Apply on MI Bridges or call your local MDHHS office for information. You’ll be required to verify your income, so you may want to work with your utility or 211 first on tips to navigate this process. Households must apply for SER assistance prior to receiving any MEAP services.
The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Michigan has generally viewed the level of assistance for both electric and natural gas utility customers as very inadequate in light of the scope of the unaffordability problem (for example, see this previous blog post). Still, these grants are a step in the right direction.