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Michigan offers extra aid for families struggling with utility bills

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

The Michigan Public Service Commission and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are offering additional aid to help families who need assistance affording their utility bills.

The departments are urging people not to wait until they receive shut-off notices or until they're out of propane or fuel oil to reach out for help. Instead, people are encouraged to find assistance through the State Emergency Relief program and the Michigan Energy Assistance Program.

Families can apply for aid online through MI Bridges to receive immediate help with help keeping your energy services on or restoring services that have been disconnected and getting a delivery for propane or fuel oil. 

“There are still MEAP funds available to assist customers in need of energy assistance and self-sufficiency services” said MPSC Chair Dan Scripps in a news release. “Also, the amount of funding available per person was increased from $2,000 to $3,000, but goes back down after Sept. 30, so it’s important that customers seek assistance right away if they have a past due account or are struggling to pay their energy bills.”

Those who qualify for SER also qualify for MEAP, which provides supplemental bill payment and energy self-sufficiency services. 

As of Wednesday, SER has put the following changes in place to service more families:

  • Phone interviews are no longer required to reduce application processing times.
  • The cap on funding assistance has increased by $300 per commodity for the rest of the fiscal year.
  • The one-time assistance limit has been canceled to allow households to get more assistance if they have not reached their cap and are in need of additional help until Sept. 30, 2020
  • The non-cash asset limit has been increased to $15,000 to allow more people in crisis to qualify for SER.
  • Shortfall co-pays have been eliminated. 

“These are unprecedented times and many Michiganders find themselves in circumstances they’ve not faced before. Help is available. Those who have lost jobs or income may find they are now eligible for assistance they may not have previously needed,” said MDHHS director Robert Gordon in a news release. “Due to recent policy changes we are now processing emergency requests faster than ever, and it is easier to access benefits. Don’t delay in seeking the help you need.” 

The Michigan Department of Treasury is also providing energy assistance with the Home Heating Credit program. The department determines people's eligibility, which is based on income, number of exemptions and household heating costs. 

Application forms are available from the Department of Treasury, local Department of Health & Human Services offices, and anywhere Michigan tax forms are available. The application period will end Sept. 30.