Traverse City – — Gov. Rick Snyder announced several initiatives Wednesday to help Michigan residents and businesses affected by a propane shortage that has crippled the Midwest.
Snyder said Wednesday several state departments will provide residents with heating and financial assistance, establish a loan program for business and seek federal waivers to ease supply chain issues.
“We are using all available tools to relieve the propane supply shortages and to ensure Michiganders can heat their homes and businesses,” Snyder said. “I’m confident these additional resources will help in our efforts to lessen the impact of this problem.”
The Department of Human Services is working with the Legislature to allocate $7 million for the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program to meet the heavy demand for propaneThe state already has dedicated $7 million in fuel heating assistance through the Michigan Energy Assistance Program.In addition, the state is making propane alternatives available — the Department of Natural Resources is expected to issue firewood permits typically not sold in the winter to loggers across the state.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. will institute a loan program for propane dealers and distributors coping the limited supply and rising cost, Snyder said.
Snyder and six other governors wrote to President Barack Obama in a letter dated Tuesday asking for help in addressing the propane shortage and price increases. They want the administration to help increase propane supplies through “every means of transport.”
They encouraged Obama to consider regulatory waivers aimed at increasing supplies and hoped the Small Business Administration would ease loan requirements to help communities respond to the shortage. The letter also said they wanted to explore actions to improve supply stability in future years.
A propane shortage brought on in part by heavy demand during an abnormally cold winter has prompted nearly 300 complaints about high prices to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, officials said.
Michael Fusilier, a farmer from Manchester, west of Ann Arbor, said he worries the propane shortage could be a problem for hisbusiness. Fusilier grows flowers, vegetables, corn and soybeans on 300 acres and relies on propane to heat his greenhouses in late February.
“Most of the growers in this area have not started their greenhouses up yet, but we do know that the price has doubled from what it was last fall,” he said. “We’re hoping we can get enough propane to get us through the spring.”
Fusilier isn’t the only one affected by the shortage. Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, said the office received 205 phone complaints and 91 written complaints since Jan. 22. Most of the complaints allege price-gouging by propane providers.
“Each complaint is being reviewed in accordance with our procedures,” Yearout said. Lawmakers, too, have been getting complaints about propane prices, which approached $5 a gallon in parts of the Upper Peninsula last week. The statewide average is now at $3.61 a gallon, a 37 percent price rise in one week.
The Attorney General’s Office is encouraging consumers who suspect gouging to keep receipts and other proof of payment.
Detroit News Staff Writer Lauren Abdel-Razzaq and the Associated Press contributed.