Energy bills can have a major impact on household budgets, especially in regions with colder climates like Michigan. When you factor in the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for assistance is greater than ever before. For those having trouble paying their heating bills, it is important to know (and share) that help is available.
Assistance can cover full or partial payment of one or more bills for propane, heating oil, electric, natural gas or any other deliverable fuel used to provide heat. Grant agencies will also provide energy self-sufficiency services, such as weatherization improvements, to reduce energy waste in homes.
Here are several tips for navigating the energy assistance process:
- Be proactive
Contact your utility company or propane supplier as soon as you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time. Do not wait for a shut-off notice or put yourself in a situation where you might run out of fuel.
- Get help by calling 2-1-1
Call 2-1-1 or go to mi211.org to learn about agencies in your county that may assist with your energy bill.
- State Emergency Relief (SER) Program
SER may help low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills, assist in keeping utilities in service, or have service restored. The program is available all year long. Call your local Department of Health and Human Services office for information or apply on MI Bridges. Households must apply for SER assistance prior to receiving any MEAP services.
- Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP)
MEAP works with households to provide supplemental bill payment assistance and self-sufficiency services to low-income residents statewide. At the time of SER application, applicants will be able to choose a MEAP provider to work with. A list of organizations that deliver MEAP services can be found here. MEAP Grantees are all Community Partners with MDHHS and can help applicants navigate the MDHHS application process.
- Community Partners
Connect with an MDHHS community partner to help work through the process of applying for assistance
- Home Heating Credit
Apply for a Home Heating Credit if you are low-income, receive public assistance, or unemployment compensation. Qualified persons may receive a credit to help pay winter heating bills. Eligible customers must meet guidelines based on household income, exemptions, and heating costs. You must apply by September 30 each year. The application form (MI-1040CR-7) can be requested from the Michigan Department of Treasury at 517-636-4486 or visit michigan.gov/Treasury.
- More resources
- Check out more consumer tips on energy assistance, how to apply for energy assistance, or visit michigan.gov/BeWinterWise for a variety of additional energy resources and information.
- heatingmyhome.org has a host of resources for Michigan propane customers including info on utility assistance, tax credits, rebates, home winterization tips, safety info and more.
- The Michigan Public Service Commission has an energy assistance website that offers information and links to state and utility company programs that offer energy bill assistance to income-qualified households, including State Emergency Relief, access to the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, and the annual Home Heating Credit, all of which provide financial assistance for families struggling with home energy costs.
More energy-saving tips
All Michiganders can take steps to cut home energy costs by reducing energy waste and with smarter use of energy.
- Check furnace filters and change them monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer. Clean filters allow furnaces to run more efficiently.
- Install a programmable thermostat and save on heating costs by lowering temperatures during daytime hours. Dressing for cold weather and turning down the thermostat another degree or two helps save money.
- Seal air leaks around windows, doors or access points.
- Check out additional recommendations on reducing energy bills from the U.S. Department of Energy.
For information about the Michigan Public Service Commission, visit Michigan.gov/MPSC. For more information about the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, visit the MPSC’s MEAP page.