As you know, AMP believes no one should have to face Michigan’s winters without heat, but hundreds of thousands of Michigan families still struggle to pay their energy bills. So a key aspect of our support for access and fairness is the availability of energy assistance—which is undergoing some important changes in Michigan this year.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The federal LIHEAP program helps low-income families in Michigan meet their immediate home energy needs. AMP believes it’s critical that the program is adequately funded. But it has been a favorite target for cuts by many politicians the past few years, and this year, there’s even more uncertainty than usual as budget battles in Washington continue to intensify.
Changes from the Department of Human Services (DHS)
Fortunately, at the beginning of the year, Michigan lawmakers established a new state-based fund that will help. DHS administers all energy assistance, and it has also made some important changes in how funds will be used to better help Michigan households that need assistance.
First of all, DHS has moved back the date it is accepting energy assistance applications. This year, it will begin November 1; in previous years, funding became available October 1.
While the delay may create challenges for some families, the change is due to a new focus on prevention that allows DHS to work with at-risk households before their power is shut off. When the funds do become available November 1, customers will be able to apply for assistance when they receive their first past-due notice.
You can learn much more about energy assistance in Michigan, and how you can help if you want to, by visiting the Coalition to Keep Michigan Warm.
Other Energy Assistance Options
Most of Michigan’s local energy providers, including DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, offer payment plans and other forms of assistance for customers who are having trouble paying their energy bills. AMP encourages any Michiganders who are struggling to reach out to their providers earlier rather than later to discuss their options.
Lower Heating Costs Expected This Winter
Perhaps the best news for those struggling to pay bills is that the Michigan Public Service Commission projects heating prices to fall this winter. That’s good news for all Michiganders!