January 16, 2019

Heating assistance available as winter grips Michigan

Posted

NORTHERN MICHIGAN — As frigid temperatures descend on Northern Michigan for the season, there is assistance for those concerned that heating costs may be too much for their budget to handle.

Consumers Energy is offering tips on how to best conserve costs associated with keeping a home warm, and is enrolling Michigan residents in its fee-reducing program called CARE, or Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy. It is a two-year program available to those who are genuinely struggling with paying heating costs.

Over the two-year period, those in the program will have their heating bill subsidized in part by CARE. In addition, past due accounts will gradually be forgiven, further removing pressure from the person in the program.

Consumers Energy Spokesman Brian Wheeler said average household natural gas usage is up more than 20 percent than it was at this point last year.

“It’s hard to imagine a winter in Michigan that isn’t cold,” he said. “We want to help those who may not be able to avoid high costs.”

Wheeler said one in five families this year will face hardship on their energy bills. He said it’s important for families who are struggling to reach out for help right away, rather than let a poor situation get worse.

“People will find themselves in a bad situation, and it’s human nature to put that to the side and hope it gets better on its own,” Wheeler said. “We want to tell people to get help immediately. The funding is there now, the support is there now, take advantage of it.”

While Consumers does offer the CARE program, Wheeler said it’s important for residents to look into other possible avenues of assistance as well. He said residents can find even more help by calling 211 to connect with local organizations that could offer assistance.

While there are countless rumors and old wives’ tales about ways to lower heating costs, it’s important to do research before taking any action. One old rumor Wheeler dispelled is that lowering the thermostat could lead to increased costs in the long run. He said for every degree a person lowers the temperature in their home, their overall bill cost will be decreased by 1-3 percent.

For more information about how to better prepare a home for colder weather, visit www.consumersenergy.com/coldweather.

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Andrew J. Welser

Great article Dominic. I would like to respectfully add my comments regarding utility costs that I found online.

History lesson first. Below are numbers I found on the internet regarding year by year increase of energy costs for the State of Michigan. Going back to 2015 these increases are what was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).

2015 – $130,000,000 (increase approved by MPSC)

2016 – $113,277,000 (increase approved by MPSC)

2017 – $142,488,000 (increase approved by MPSC)

2018 – $130,000,000 (increase approved by MPSC)

Every year's increase was always approved by MPSC. Senior citizens living on fixed incomes are getting hurt by the high energy cost increases approved by MPSC every year.

What is the MPSC? The mission of the Michigan Public Service Commission is to protect the public by ensuring safe, reliable, and accessible energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates for Michigan's residents.

Noticeably missing from the above mission statement is the word "cheap". If our senior citizens can't afford their energy costs then can we really say it's safe?

Why am I providing the data? Last winter I had many senior veterans coming to the veterans office asking for energy assistance. The veterans office provded that much needed help but I saw a trend (see above dollars amounts) whereby the MPSC is rubber stamping energy rate increases every year. I found NO decreases in energy costs. Presumably these seniors will again look for help with their utility bills.

So who are the members of the Commission? The Michigan Public Service Commission is composed of three members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioners are appointed to serve staggered six-year terms. No more than two Commissioners may represent the same political party. One commissioner is designated as chairman by the Governor.

Currently all three of the commissioners have been selected by Gov. Snyder. Their job is to regulate public utilites. I don't think that the regulation part is not working out so well for our seniors citizens, great if you are a public utility.

One last thing I would like to say.... someday we are all going to be senior citizens.

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