Consumers Energy donates $300K to help Michigan veterans pay heating bills

When temperatures go down, thermostats go up.
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 11:24 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 28, 2022 at 5:16 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Potentially hundreds of military veterans will receive help paying their heating bills in Michigan this winter.

Consumers Energy donated $300,000 to the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) said it’s the largest single donation in the 76-year history of the trust fund.

Over the past three years, Consumers Energy has donated $550,000 to the MVTF. This year’s donation will help veterans who are Consumers Energy customers pay utility bills and make emergency home repairs that fall under energy efficiency, including furnace and roof repairs.

“Utility assistance continues to be one of our biggest needs, especially during these cold winter months,” said MVTF Director Lindell Holm in a statement. “We are incredibly thankful to have the support of Consumers Energy as we work to assist veterans and their families during this time. This donation allows the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund to expand our reach to more veterans facing critical needs besides utilities like emergency rent assistance and home payments.”

“We know with our interactions with the state and other veterans organizations that many people who serve our country do face hardship,” said Brian Wheeler, with Consumers Energy. “If we can really carve out a pool of money to help people who have served our nation so much, we think that is very important.”

More than 51% of Michigan’s nearly 550,000 veterans are age 65 or older and about 21% percent receive disability compensation, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ariel Lund is a veterans benefits counselor for the Livingston County Veteran Services. She said she works with five to seven veterans a month who aren’t able to afford their electric and heating bills. Lund said she can help veterans take advantage of the program. “Help make the battle a little less heavy even though we already handled, a lot of our veterans have already handled battles in the war sense, the civilian battle of just basic needs is something a lot of them aren’t prepared to handle with.”

Since late 2020, more than $169,000 in donations from Consumers Energy and the MTVF have helped 457 Michigan veterans and their dependents pay utility bills. Another $190,000 in donations from Consumers Energy and the MVTF have helped veterans make energy-efficient home repairs in the form of furnaces and roofs.

Michael Schlaack, a member of the Howell American Legion, said that the legion is also connecting veterans with resources to help with heating-related issues. “Most of the time it’s a one-off bill that they need assistance with: the hot water heater goes, maybe the heater, the furnace in their home, maybe they need assistance with fixing their cars and these are the things that a lot of times it’s hard to find assistance for.”

Consumers Energy has provided $7.25 million this winter to help Michigan residents with energy bills, which includes assistance for military veterans according to MVAA. The utility said the money will also help veterans make repairs on their homes.

Veterans can call 1-800-MICH-VET to inquire about eligibility or visit the MVTF webpage and fill out the emergency assistance form.

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