The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are urging customers to be proactive in seeking help if they find themselves unable to pay their energy bills and to not wait to receive a shut off notice or are almost out of propane or fuel oil.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn continue and as the winter heating season approaches, many Michiganders may find themselves needing assistance for the first time. If you’ve recently become unemployed or have lost income due to the pandemic, you should first contact your energy provider or propane supplier to ask what options may be available to you.
Assistance is also available through the State Emergency Relief (SER) program and the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP). If you need immediate assistance in getting a delivery for propane for fuel oil, help keeping your energy services on or restoring services that have been disconnected, the quickest way is to apply for SER is online through MI Bridges at www.michigan.gov/mibridges. If you need help applying or navigating the application process, call 211 and ask for a MEAP grantee near you for help.
If you have already received SER, you still may be eligible for additional assistance because the caps on assistance have increased. Households who qualify for SER also qualify for assistance through MEAP, which provides supplemental bill payment assistance and energy self-sufficiency services. You can connect with a MEAP provider during your MI Bridges SER application process, by calling 211 or going to mi211.org.
“There are still MEAP funds available to assist customers in need of energy assistance and self-sufficiency services” said MPSC Chair Dan Scripps. “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.”
Additional energy assistance is also available through the Home Heating Credit. The Michigan Department of Treasury determines eligibility and makes payments for this program. 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 is January to September 30. You do not need to file a state income tax return, you may apply for the Home Heating Credit only. Eligibility is based on income, number of exemptions and household heating costs. More information is available at www.michigan.gov/treasury.
“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. “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.”
In response to COVID-19, the following changes to SER policy have been put in place:
• A phone interview is no longer required — reduces the amount of time it takes to process an application.
• Increase in assistance cap — allows households to receive an additional $300 in assistance per commodity for the remainder of the fiscal year.
• Suspension of one-time energy assists — allows customers 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 — allows more people in crisis to qualify for SER.
• Elimination of required payments — eliminates SER shortfall copayment.
For information about the MPSC, visit www.Michigan.gov/MPSC, sign up for one of its listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter.