From Handouts to Hand-ups: Making the Most of LIHEAP Funds

There are many programs that direct energy assistance dollars to Michiganders in need.

Two primary approaches of energy assistance—crisis assistance and self-sufficiency programs— are both necessary to supporting Michiganders in need. AMP believes that providing a path to self-sufficiency will enable us to help more Michiganders in more meaningful ways with the finite LIHEAP and MEAP funds we have available. This is especially critical given the fact that LIHEAP funding has fallen in recent years.

Self-sufficiency programs help end a negative cycle of shut-offs and restarts that plague low-income households and cost the system much more in the long run.

Fortunately, there are several efforts taking place behind the scenes by local energy providers and other groups to end this shut-off cycle and truly make the most of federal energy assistance funds.

DTE Energy’s Low-Income Self-Sufficiency Program

DTE Energy is pioneering a Low-Income Self-Sufficiency Program (LSP) that helps low-income Michigan households avoid crisis situations by addressing the root causes of overdue accounts, including:

According to Jason Sparks, the program’s designer, the LSP has drastically changed outcomes for DTE Energy’s low-income consumers who participate, with a “95% success rate compared with an 8% average among competing plans.”

The LSP also partners with community-based groups to provide a range of services to help low-income households become self-sufficient in all areas of their lives, such as job training, addiction counseling, daycare assistance, food stamps, and energy efficiency education.

Perhaps best of all, the LSP (and self-sufficiency programs in general) makes a more efficient use of LIHEAP dollars.  Sparks points out that “for the same amount of state funding, we can protect that customer for a full year, put them on an affordable payment plan which actually increases the percent of money that they’re paying.”

Consumers Energy’s Affordable Resource for Energy

Under Consumers Energy’s Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy (CARE) program, eligible Michigan residents with a past due balance less than $3,000 can apply for services that include:

Helping Neighbors provides home energy assessments, free installation of energy-efficient products, and tips on other ways to save energy.

State of Michigan

In addition to local energy provider-sponsored programs, the state offers its own weatherization programs that help stretch LIHEAP dollars even further by empowering consumers to make their homes more energy efficient.

Qualifying households can receive free energy efficiency upgrades for their homes including:

A Winning Model for All of Michigan

Energy assistance that puts customers on the track to self-sufficiency is a strategy that’s good for all Michiganders—local providers, taxpayers, and low-income consumers alike.

Through prudent use of federal and state assistance dollars, providers and community agencies can treat more low-income families and individuals with dignity and put them on the path to success.  Moreover, these efforts help make the most use out of the limited funds we receive from LIHEAP, meaning more families in need can get the assistance they require.