Michigan Governor Helps Residents with Financial Assistance

Posted on December 16, 2021Comments Off on Michigan Governor Helps Residents with Financial Assistance

Governor Whitmer Helps Residents with Financial Assistance and Shutoff Protections to Ensure Michiganders Stay Warm this Winter

LANSING, MI (STL.News) Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, the Michigan Public Service Commission, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and other state agencies are working to save people money and help keep the heat on this winter as temperatures drop by reminding Michigan families worried about paying for home heating that there are shutoff protections, financial assistance, and other resources available this season.

“There is help available for working families, seniors, and other Michiganders to stay safe and warm this winter,” said Governor Whitmer.  “We will continue working together to put Michiganders first and lower costs for families this winter, and I urge anyone struggling with home heating costs to call 211 or go to mi211.org to learn more about resources for those in need.”

“No one in Michigan has to go without heat this winter,” said Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Dan Scripps. “Qualifying households can get assistance with utility bills, and many Michigan utilities offer flexible payment plans that can spread the costs of home heating year-round to lower the immediate burden of higher costs when cold weather sets in. There also are programs to help households use energy more efficiently and help reduce winter bills.”

“We don’t want anyone to have to worry about keeping their homes warm during the Michigan winter,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel.  “MDHHS and other state agencies are here to help.  Residents should be aware of the state’s energy-related assistance programs and services.”

Need help? Here are ways to get help staying warm:

  • Qualifying utility customers may be eligible for State Emergency Relief (SER) or the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), which provide financial assistance. To learn more, go to www.michigan.gov/mibridges or call your local MDHHS office.  If you need help applying, call 211 and ask for a MEAP grantee near you for help.
  • The Winter Protection Plan protects both seniors and low-income customers of MPSC-regulated natural gas and electric companies. Customers may find relief from electric or natural gas service shutoff and high utility payments during the home heating season, Nov. 1 to March 31.  To apply for this or other shut-off protection plans, contact your utility.  In addition to the Winter Protection Plan, there are medical emergency, critical care and active-duty military family shut-off protections.
  • Households eligible for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program can receive utility assistance for tenant supplied electricity, home heating (any type of fuel), water, sewer, and trash (if billed along with another utility). For full program details, go to www.michigan.gov/cera.
  • Apply for a Home Heating Credit.  Visit the Michigan Department of Treasury’s website to see if you qualify. Even though this funding is distributed by the Department of Treasury, you do not need to pay taxes or wait for a tax return to receive this credit, so apply now if you are eligible.  For more information, visit Michigan Public Service Commission Home Heating Credit.
  • Households also can take steps to use energy more efficiently through winterization of their homes.  Local Community Action Agencies may help with weatherization if specific low-income guidelines are met.  Visit the MDHHS Weatherization Operators website to find a Weatherization Operator in your county.
  • Taking actions including regularly changing furnace filters, installing a programmable thermostat, sealing air leaks around windows and doors can help reduce energy use and save you money.  The MPSC offers the brochure “Energy Saver-Tips on Saving Money and Energy in Your Home.”  For a free copy, call the MPSC at 800-292-9555.  This brochure and others on important utility issues are also available on the MPSC’s

Beware of utility scams; report unfair prices

The Department of Attorney General provides consumer protection resources through Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Utility Imposter Scams Consumer Alert.

Utility companies may offer you the option to pay over the phone but will never demand immediate payment by phone. They will also never engage in the following:

  • Solicit personal information in the name of signing you up for a government program that claims to reduce energy bills.
  • Make unannounced visits to collect a bill or threaten shutoff.  Utilities will never threaten to disrupt or disconnect service either in person, over the phone, or by email.  All late payment notices are mailed USPS and provide the steps to restore the account to good standing.
  • Show up at your home unannounced to inspect or repair equipment, investigate a leak or do a free audit for energy efficiency.  Consumers are notified in advance of a home visit.
  • Request personal or financial information, such as your social security number, utility account number, or payment information.  Instead, customers are asked to validate account information such as billing zip code, home address, or the phone number associated with the account.
  • Claim you are entitled to a refund or rebate and ask for bank account or credit card information to make the alleged refund.
  • Use aggressive tactics to get into your home.  Utility companies require employees to always wear a company identification badge that will be produced upon request.

“If you have any doubt about a caller or someone who comes to your door without proper identification, contact your utility using the phone number on your most recent bill and ask to speak to a customer service representative,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said.  “You should also file a complaint with my office so the proper authorities can respond accordingly.”

In addition to protecting against scams, the Michigan Department of Attorney General protects consumers from price fixing and price gouging and can take action when circumstances warrant action.

To report a utility scam or if you have information regarding potentially unfair energy costs, please file a consumer complaint online.  If you have questions, you can reach Attorney General Nessel’s Consumer Protection team by calling 877-765-8388.

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