LANSING, Mich. — A multi-million-dollar commitment by Consumers Energy to help customers struggling to pay their utility bills will strengthen the slate of assistance programs available to energy users across Michigan.
United Way of Jackson County (UWJC) operates a Program Assistance Center, connecting customers in need regardless of where they reside in Michigan. UWJC works with Consumers Energy, DTE, SEMCO and other utility providers as part of the statewide Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP).
“With the winter months approaching, making sure Michigan families can keep the lights and heat on is more important than ever,” said Heather Kapustka, Program Administrator for UWJC’s Program Assistance Center. “We work hard to connect people with past-due energy bills to assistance programs that can help.”
UWJC is among the agencies partnering with Consumers Energy to help connect customers in need to the Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy (CARE) Plus assistance program. The program, which totals $12 million statewide, has a goal of serving 25,000 households and 1,000 small businesses. CARE Plus is a 12-month affordable payment plan that helps income-qualified customers stay on top of their energy bills. As a CARE member, participants have a portion of their monthly bill paid by the program, and any past-due balance is gradually forgiven as a reward for on-time payments. CARE Plus members may also be eligible for Consumers Energy’s Helping Neighbors program, which provides no-cost, in-home energy efficiency upgrades to help reduce energy costs.
For customers not served by Consumers Energy, United Way’s Program Assistance Center can connect them to programs through other utility providers and the statewide MEAP, which is funded through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The Program Assistance Center guides callers through the eligibility and application process. Callers also have the chance to learn about resources to address other needs, such as how to manage household finances.
“This partnership allows us to help those residents catch up on bills plus provide them with other resources which may also help them work towards self-sufficiency,” Kapustka said.
Assistance programs operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Kapustka urged anyone who is behind on their bills to contact the Program Assistance Center.
In addition, Barry County United Way and United Way for Southeastern Michigan are also providing utility assistance via a grant from MEAP. Each has put together teams of enrollment specialists that can give callers personal, step-by-step help in the application process. Here are the contact details:
· Barry County United Way—https://www.bcunitedway.org/get-help/utility-assistance/ [bcunitedway.org] (serves Barry County).
· United Way for Southeastern Michigan—844-211-4994, or online at https://unitedwaysem.org/get-help/community-resources/utility-assistance/ [unitedwaysem.org] (serves Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties).
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