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Smart vs. Poor Energy Policy: Energy Assistance for Low-income Michiganders

AMP believes that, in addition to creating jobs and strengthening our economy, smart energy policy will ensure all Michiganders have access to reliable electricity. There are many ways that smart policies can help do that—and many ways that the wrong policies can raise costs and limit access, especially for low-income Michiganders.

Energy Assistance Programs

With fall upon us and temperatures dropping across the state, energy assistance programs are once again playing an important role in keeping Michigan families warm and safe. Federal and state energy assistance programs are especially vital for low-income households with children and seniors.  Below is a brief overview of the primary sources of energy assistance in our state:

  • The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides funding—administered at the state level—to help offset energy costs, which represent a disproportionately large chunk of household income for low-income households.
  • The Michigan Energy Assistance Program and Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund and are state-based programs created in 2012 and 2013, respectively.  Both programs are funded by LIHEAP, as well as contributions from other sources, to provide energy assistance to eligible Michigan households.
  • Michigan’s Department of Human Services also offers home heating credits, state emergency relief, and weatherization assistance programs to ensure energy remains affordable when Michigan families need it most.
  • Most of our state’s local energy providers, including DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, offer programs to assist low-income households.  Smart policies help foster such programs, make it easy for residents to participate in them, and help keep them accessible.

Programs such as these represent sound energy policy at its best
—working at both the federal and state levels to protect energy access and affordability.

Poor Energy Policy Hurts Low-income Michiganders

Unfortunately, even with energy assistance programs in place, poor energy policy decisions are still made that increase the burden for our state’s most vulnerable populations.  A quick look at LIHEAP’s recent history offers just one example:

  • LIHEAP funding has dropped dramatically in recent years—the President’s 2014 budget slashed LIHEAP funding from nearly $3.5 billion to just under $3 billion.  Even the $3.5 billion was a dramatic drop from the $4.5 billion the program received in 2011.
  • This year, LIHEAP funding has yet to be released, even though “October marks the start of the heating season.” Now, 46 U.S. Senators are calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to “release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible.”

Without proper funding, these programs cannot and will not succeed. Smart energy policy may have helped to create these energy assistance safety nets, but poor energy policy is now undermining their efficacy.

If you or someone you know needs energy assistance, please keep in mind that applications will be accepted beginning November 1. For more information, call 2-1-1 or visit www.mi211.com.

How do you see energy policy impacting energy access and affordability? Do you have any experience with energy assistance programs?  Tell us your thoughts.