LANSING — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service (MDHHS) and Governor Whitmer’s office announced today more state-wide funding through a federal low-income energy assistance program. Michigan has now been awarded $35 million in funding on top of the $162 million already secured by the state.
The funds go towards “crisis assistance” for the low-income residents struggling to pay energy bills during the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. Eighty-four radio stations across the state have also agreed to air a public service announcement throughout May, which directs energy consumers to contact their providers for flexible payment plans and other assistance.
The state has provided the following guide for those wanting to know their options at this point. Anyone facing financial distress because of COVID-19 is urged to:
- Contact their utility or propane supplier to ask what kind of protections, funding, flexible payment options or energy saving tools and resources are available.
- Call 211 or go to mi211.org for information about getting help paying your utility bill or how to contact agencies that may assist with energy bills.
- Apply for State Emergency Relief (SER) directly through the MI Bridges program for bill payment assistance if they are in jeopardy of losing heat or electric services, have already had service shut off or are in need of a deliverable fuel, or call 855-275-6424. Assistance can also be sought with the application process by calling 211 to find a MEAP grantee that can help.
- Apply for a Home Heating Credit. Residents should visit the Michigan Department of Treasury’s website to see if they qualify. Even though this funding is distributed by the Department of Treasury, you do not need to file taxes or wait for a tax return to receive this credit, so apply now if you are eligible. For more information, read the MPSC’s Home Heating Credit consumer tip.
Energy providers across the state have agreed to pause shutoffs for low-income and senior residential customers until the emergency is lifted and to provide flexible payment options, the state said in a press release. Those in financial trouble during the pandemic can find additional information here.
The federal program through which Michigan is awarded the $35,130,421 is tied to the federal CARES act and is titled the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The total amount of funding released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is $900 million for the federal fiscal year of 2020.