Home Heating Assistance

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With a colder than usual January, and the higher price of gas, home heating bills are up this month. But there is some relief from the high price of heat.

Consumers Energy estimates bills are up an average of $60 for January. The higher prices mean more people need assistance paying for heat. Consumers Energy recommends customers call their bill payment center right away when they realize they might have trouble paying. The company can work out bill payment plans for some customers, but others need more assistance.

Several area agencies help low-income and fixed income families and individuals pay bills. The Family Independence Agency, the Salvation Army and the Capital Area Community Services all help pay bills. CACS estimates it will spend nearly a million dollars in assistance this year. But all agencies say their funding is being stretched thin by high demand.

Consumers Energy is asking customers to make small donations on this month's statement by checking a box on their bill.