Little or No Summer Help for Utility Bills

Lansing, MI - If you need help paying your utility bill, you might be hard pressed to find any assistance this summer.

Emergency funds to help people across mid-Michigan pay their utilities are strapped or non-existent.

The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) isn't helping with funds during the summer.

"There is an emergency season where people can apply for assistance and this is beyond the emergency season right now," says DHS Acting Manager of Communications Bob Wheaton.

The DHS ended their year-round application period for utility crisis funding back in October 2013.

Now, the only time to apply for help is during the "crisis season" from November 1 to May 31.

"People are applying now and not getting approval because it has passed," says Wheaton.

The DHS told News 10 back in October 2013 that this restructuring was intended to help more people.

The Salvation Army has no funding and St. Vincent de Paul in Lansing has "limited funding" the last time we called.

Much of this is because demand for help from these sources has increased, so there's less money to go around.

If you do need help, try local churches or other private organizations. You can also apply for extreme emergency assistance through the DHS.

Wheaton says an extreme emergency would be a life-threatening situation, or if protective services is involved and payment is needed to keep people in the home.

There are still some options. You can call your utility companies to see if they will work with you. Both the Lansing Board of Water and Light and Consumers Energy do allow payment arrangements.

You're also advised to call 2-1-1 to see if any local agency in your county has any new funding coming in. Just because an organization doesn't have funds today, doesn't mean that will be the case say later in the month.

DHS is still assisting with non-energy emergencies such as water shut-offs, home repairs, and housing assistance needed for rent, or mortgage.

You can apply for that at any DHS office or by going to their website: http://www.michigan.gov/dhs/ and click on "Assistance & Services" button.


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