Last week, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, indicating for some that an early spring is just around the corner. That’s not hard to believe here in Michigan, where we’ve been seeing a mild winter by our standards.
The warmer weather has given a bit of relief to low-income Michigan families struggling to pay their energy bills on top of all their other expenses. However, funding for LIHEAP, the federal Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program, continues to be a cause for concern.
Despite our unseasonably warm winter, AMP believes Congress must fully fund this vital program to provide much-needed assistance to more low-income Michiganders who need it.
The Importance of Full Funding
As we’ve discussed here and here, LIHEAP helps families at or below 150% of the federal poverty line ($35,575 for a family of four in Michigan) by providing energy assistance and crisis funding for households whose heat has been cut off.
In 2012, Michigan’s LIHEAP-funded programs helped roughly 615,000 households. According to the Michigan Department of Human Services (MDHS) there were about 1.2 million Michigan families at or below 150% of poverty at that time. That means LIHEAP funds are only reaching half of eligible Michigan families in need.
Over the last few years, the number of households receiving help from LIHEAP has risen steadily as federal funding for the program has eroded. Consider the following statistics:
At current levels, we are literally leaving half of the Michigan families who need energy assistance out in the cold. What happens if we suddenly are hit with a deep freeze, or if next winter turns out to be an arctic blast?
Keeping our vulnerable families in mind and fully funding assistance programs must continue to be a priority so that help is available whenever it is needed by those who need it most.
Stay tuned for more on how energy assistance funds are allocated and how Michigan’s local energy providers are working to improve the ways low-income families are served.