HHS releases $35.1M to help vulnerable Michigan households pay down energy bills

Published on May 20, 2020 by Chris Galford

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Building on in-state efforts to keep energy flowing to homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released $35.1 million in federal funding for those in Michigan struggling to afford utility bills.

This is part of the $900 million in supplemental income HHS recently released through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), as provided by the 2020 CARES Act. As such, this is separate from the more than $162 million in regular LIHEAP funding already contributed to the state this year. These funds will be used specifically for crisis assistance and to help struggling households pay their share of energy costs.

At the same time, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have united in a public service announcement that will be aired on 84 radio stations to advise struggling Michigan residents of flexible payment plans and other assistance available during the crisis.

The state itself has moved to keep the lights on as well, by working with energy providers on a collective agreement to pause shutoffs for low-income and senior residential customers until the emergency is lifted. Flexible payment options have been pursued, home heating credits made available, and State Emergency Relief funds provided for those in jeopardy of losing heat or electric services, who have had service shut off or are in need of deliverable fuel.

“Many Michiganders are more vulnerable as a result of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the economy,” Lewis Roubal, senior deputy director for opportunity at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said. “MDHHS is working hard during the pandemic to expand public assistance benefits and provide easier access to financial help for residents who are struggling to pay their bills. The additional LIHEAP funding allows us to help more people who need assistance.”