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Agencies look for new funding to help poor pay for heat

LANSING -- Social services groups are scrambling to

prevent thousands of low-income Michigan residents from having

their heat cut off after a program that helped pay overdue utility

bills for the poor lost its funding.

 

A court struck down the financing system used by the program in

July, and lawmakers haven't enacted a new one. With the aid money

running out as winter arrives, officials are temporarily drawing on

other funds to tide over needy families.

 

 About 95,000 people get help each year through the 9-year-old

program. Most are probably safe until spring, thanks to a state law

that bars utilities from shutting off heat between Nov. 1 and March

30.

 

But legislators say they must find a new way to raise $60

million to continue providing the assistance.