Applications for energy assistance in Michigan will be open all year round starting Monday, October 1.
Until now, people could only apply for the assistance between November and May -- the state's designated energy crisis season.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will also start processing all applications, in the hope that this new system will streamline the application process and give their grantee organizations the ability to focus on helping recipients become self-sufficient.
There has been some uncertainty among potential applicants leading up to the changes, though. MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton says some people have expressed concern that they'll now only be able to apply for assistance online.
“But that's not the case… we want to have people have the best access they can have to these funds and be able to apply for them in the way that's easiest for them,” Wheaton says.
He emphasizes that applications will still be available both in paper and online.
Aside from the confusion, the changes to the energy assistance program have been met with positive reception.
Tony Reames is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Environmental Sustainability. His research is devoted to energy justice, and he says this program is a step in the right direction.
“I think now the next step would be like how do we streamline a lot of the other services that the health and human services provide?” Reames said.
More than 81,000 households received Michigan Energy Assistance Program funding in the last fiscal year.