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Grants to help low-income customers pay heating bills announced

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Posted at 3:48 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 15:48:16-05

LANSING, Mich. — As the cold weather season arrives in Michigan, nine community service agencies are ready to help customers who have fallen behind on home energy bills.

Thursday it was announced that the agencies were recently awarded $54.5 million in Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) grants, the Michigan Public Service Commission, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

The grant recipients, the amount each received, and their service areas are:

  • Barry County United Way: $150,000, Barry County.
  • MDHHS Bureau of Community Action and Economic Opportunity: $6.39 million, statewide.
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul of the Archdiocese of Detroit: $4.356 million; multiple counties throughout Michigan.
  • Superior Watershed Partnership: $2.46 million, 15 Upper Peninsula counties, and multiple northern-Lower Peninsula counties.
  • The Heat and Warmth Fund: $7.069 million, statewide.
  • The Salvation Army: $11.4 million, statewide.
  • TrueNorth Community Services: $10.85 million, statewide.
  • United Way for Southeastern Michigan: $6.575 million, statewide.
  • United Way of Jackson County: $5.25 million, statewide.

Grant recipient agencies highlight helping the lowest-income households with the highest energy burden. More than 55,000 households in Michigan received MEAP assistance in the funding period that ended Sept. 30.

The assistance can cover full or partial payment of one or more bills for electric, natural gas, propane, heating oil, or any other deliverable fuel used to provide heat. Additionally, grant agencies will provide energy self-sufficiency services, such as weatherization improvements, which reduce energy waste in homes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, home energy bills are significant expenses for many household budgets. Help is available for customers having trouble paying their energy bills.

Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) urges customers to be proactive.

“Flexible payment plans are offered for many utilities,” said MPSC in a press release. “As soon as you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time, contact your utility company or propane supplier. Do not wait for a shutoff notice or put yourself in a situation where you might run out of fuel.”

Ways to seek assistance:

  • Call 211 or go to www.mi211.org to learn about agencies that may assist with your energy bill.
  • State Emergency Relief may help low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills, assist in keeping utilities in service, or have service restored, assistance that’s available year-round. Apply on MI Bridges or call your local MDHHS office for information. You’ll be required to verify your income, so you may want to work with your utility or 211 first on tips to navigate this process. Households must apply for SER assistance prior to receiving any MEAP services.

Michiganders can take several steps to cut home energy costs by cutting down on energy waste and using energy in smarter ways:

  • Check furnace filters and change them monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Clean filters allow furnaces to run more efficiently.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and save on heating costs by lowering temperatures during daytime hours. Dressing for cold weather and turning the thermostat down another degree or two helps save money.
  • Seal air leaks around windows, doors, or utility access points.
  • Schedule a home energy assessment to identify ways to cut energy waste. Rebates on heating, ventilation and air conditioning, appliances, lighting, insulation, and other improvements are available through utilities.

More recommendations to reduce energy bills from the U.S. Department of Energy can be found HERE.

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