Lower funding for emergency heating assistance forces policy changes

Oct 8, 2013

Michigan residents needing help with their heating bills are in for some changes this year.

Because of a new law, people seeking assistance will only have a seven-month window to apply, instead of year-round. That window opens November First.

Michigan Department of Human Services spokesman Dave Akerly says once that window opens, people will begin qualifying for help when they get a past-due notice, instead of having to wait until they face a heat shutoff.

“That’s a big change because we want to get people not to the point where they’re being cut off. We want this to be more preventative than trying to put a band-aid on a large wound,” Akerly said.

“It’s a pretty steady drop especially on the federal side. We need to try to marshal our resources as best we can to help the most number of people,” he said.

Michigan got about 40% less money from the federal government for energy assistance this fiscal year than it did in 2010.

Akerly says the state processes roughly 25,000 cases each month during the winter.