Lawmakers Approve Heating Assistance Plan
SOUTHFIELD (WWJ/AP) – There is now hope for truly needy in Michigan who are facing the possibility of their heat being shut off because their state aid program has run out of money.
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reports that House and Senate leaders have now agreed to a package that will raise $58 million to keep the heat on.
Taxpayers, those who are now getting utilities and can afford their bills, will continue to have a surcharge on their monthly bill for nine months to help fund this program.
Susan Scherer, CEO of The Heat and Warmth Fund, is pleased that everyone worked together to help people out.
“This is an important victory and it is proving how quickly when the agencies, the utilities and the legislature and governor’s office come together how quickly we can get things done,” said Scherer.
Action is needed because earlier this year a state appeals court ruled the financing system used by Michigan’s Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund was no longer authorized. The fund is financed through a charge on customers of large utilities, including Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy.
The replacement plan calls for refunding or rebating to customers about $48 million that has been collected in escrow since the ruling. The charge on utility bills would then resume until it raised another $48 million for a new, renamed fund.
An additional $10 million would come from the state’s general fund.
Lawmakers acknowledged Thursday’s fix is temporary and that more long-term solutions may have to found when the Legislature comes back in January. Legislators said they felt it necessary to address the winter heating issue for low-income residents before ending votes for the year.
“We’re focused very sharply on helping vulnerable families get heat turned back on and to protect them from shut off when we can,” said state Rep. Ken Horn, a Republican from Frankenmuth.
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