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State of Michigan works with utility companies to ensure protections, assistance for customers

(WILX)
Published: Mar. 27, 2020 at 4:21 PM EDT
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State officials are working with utility companies to make sure protections are in place for customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Major utility companies include DTE and Consumers Energy have enacted moratoriums on service disconnections, and are extending flexible payment plans for low-income customers, seniors and those who are impacted by illness or job losses related to the coronavirus, according to a statement from LARA.

“Michiganders are tough, and we will get through this emergency by helping one another,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “We are fortunate that utilities across Michigan have stepped up with proactive policies to assist those in need during this crisis.”

“During these unprecedented times with a variety of concerns, worrying about utility bills should not be one of them,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “As Chief Consumer Advocate for this state, I am heartened to hear Michigan utilities voluntarily stepping up to help their customers.”

LARA said utilities, including those regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission along with municipal and cooperative owned utilities, have instituted policies to "help protect vulnerable customers during this crisis, ranging from suspended disconnections and assistance to reconnect service to payment assistance."

LARA said funds are also available through partnering organizations to help eligible customers who are behind on utility bills.

“We encourage anyone who anticipates difficulty paying their energy bills not to wait, and to reach out to their utility company as soon as they can to work out payment options,” said Sally Talberg, Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned energy companies in Michigan. “Each utility may vary, but whether you a have medical or financial need, payment protections and assistance are available.”

LARA said Michiganders who are using propane for home heating are also eligible for income-based assistance programs.

LARA sent the following information regarding home energy assistance:

• Be Proactive - Contact your utility company as soon as you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time.

• Call 2-1-1 or click on www.mi211.org to learn about agencies in your county that may assist with your energy bill.

• State Emergency Relief (SER) may help low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills, assist in keeping utilities in service, or have service restored. The program is available year-round. Call your local Department of Health and Human Services office for information or apply on MI Bridges. Households must apply for SER assistance prior to receiving any Michigan Energy Assistance Program services.

• The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) works with households to provide supplemental bill payment assistance and self-sufficiency services to low-income residents statewide. At the time of SER application, applicants will be able to choose a MEAP provider to work with. A list of organizations that deliver MEAP services can be found on the MPSC’s website. MEAP grantees are all community partners with MDHHS and can help applicants to navigate the MDHHS application process.

• Connect with an MDHHS community partner to help work through the process of applying for assistance.

• Home Heating Credit qualified persons may receive a credit to help pay winter heating bills. Apply for a Home Heating Credit if you are low-income or receive public assistance or unemployment compensation. Eligible customers must meet guidelines based on household income, exemptions and heating costs. You must apply by Sept. 30 each year. The application form (MI-1040CR-7) can be requested from the Michigan Department of Treasury at 517-636-4486, or visit at www.michigan.gov/treasury.

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