Heating assistance for those who can't afford their bill

JACKSON, Mich. (WSYM) - With the beginning of another very cold stretch of weather, many furnaces will be working overtime and that can be a scary thought for families who can't afford their heating bill.

Local utilities and the state have programs in place to help keep the heat on, but getting qualified customers in, isn't always easy.

Consumers Energy is encouraging them to enroll in the CARE Program..
They say the first step is to call "211” and say, "I need help".

Shannon Burnette enrolled in the CARE Program and says sometimes people have to really eat their pride just to make that phone call.

Burnette made that phone call to "211" and it put her in touch with Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy also known as CARE.

“I felt this weight off my shoulders because of the discounts”, said Burnette.

Many on heating assistance worry about the stigma of asking for help with their bills

“I was more embarrassed because I was afraid to let somebody know that I might be struggling,” said Burnette.

“Oh you know she works but she's still not paying her bills. Well I do pay my bills...just I'm not able to pay them in full sometimes.”

The working mother of two says the program brought her great relief after feeling like she was in a never-ending financial crutch.

“I got the help the help now I can get out of that revolving door of who I'm gonna pay this week”, said Burnette.

Programs like CARE and the state's Low-Income Heating Assistance Program can either reduce the customer's bill or cover it all depending on need.

“Everyone needs a helping hand at some point in their life”, said Burnette.

“And if it's put there to help, take advantage of what you can while you can.”

You don't need to be a Consumers Energy customer to call “211” for help.

It's available to people all over Mid-Michigan regardless of which utility you use.

You can find information on heating assistance programs through the state.

Here are a few other resources that can help with energy assistance:

· Michigan Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (BWL customers) : (855) 275-6424

· THAW – The Heat and Warmth Fund (DTE customers) : 1-800-866-THAW (8429)

· Jackson County United Way : 1-844-220-6098

· Call 211 (Consumers Energy) for more resources and organizations