As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”
When assisting low-income Michiganders, agencies and organizations generally take one of two approaches: short-term crisis assistance or longer-term self-sufficiency planning. Both approaches are important to addressing the various needs of all Michiganders who require assistance.
Providing a Path to Self-Sufficiency
Shutting off and reconnecting service ultimately increases costs for everyone, and for households whose financial challenges are ongoing, often leads to a vicious cycle of shut-offs in which the affected families can’t really catch up or get ahead.
AMP supports energy assistance solutions that help more Michiganders avoid falling into crisis in the first place, helping them make their energy bills more predictable, keeping them within a manageable budget from month-to-month, and putting them on a path to long-term self-sufficiency. We believe this approach should be the cornerstone of Michigan’s energy assistance strategy because it is more cost-effective, enables us to stretch energy assistance funding further, and ultimately yields better experiences for affected households.
Addressing Short-Term Crises
There will always be times when a crisis throws a family or an individual into a situation where they need assistance. Whether it’s the loss of a job or the burden of medical expenses, crises happen. To build on the fishing metaphor, sometimes you must feed someone first, before you can take the time to teach them to fish.
Currently, many of the energy assistance programs in Michigan are focused on helping people in crisis who are in past-due or shut-off status and are facing immediate risks. These programs undeniably serve a distinct and important purpose—but one of the reasons Michigan legislators and energy agencies will be looking at our overall approach to energy assistance this year is that our goal should be to keep more people from reaching the crisis point in the first place.
Teaching Them to Fish
Crisis intervention will always be necessary when it comes to energy assistance. Preventative measures provide a more effective long-term approach.
Empowering low-income Michiganders to manage their energy costs long-term will ultimately help create a better energy future for all of Michigan.
What are your thoughts on proactive energy assistance? Let us know!