Proos: Home heating help may be available

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LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos on Monday reminded Southwest Michigan residents that winter heating assistance may be available through programs offered by the state, utility companies and community organizations.

“In the wake of the season’s first real winter storm, it is a good time to remind area families that Michigan winters can be harsh and that help with home heating bills may be available,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “First, if you are unable to pay your bills, please contact the utility company ASAP and explain the situation. Being proactive could help keep the heat on and save your life.”

The Winter Protection Plan safeguards seniors and low-income gas and electric customers from service shutoffs and high utility bills from Nov. 1 to March 31. It allows eligible customers to avoid shutoffs while paying nothing or just a small percentage of their annual bill during the protection period. To apply, residents should contact their natural gas or utility company.

“This is a deferment plan, not a financial assistance program,” Proos said. “It is meant to ease the burden of high winter utility bills. However, immediate help may be available if you are facing an extreme hardship or emergency.”

The State Emergency Relief Program offers assistance for low-income residents who may need help due to an emergency. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance.

The site also includes details on the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Home Heating Credit.

“Residents can apply directly for the Home Heating Credit; you do not need to file a state income tax return,” Proos said. “The weatherization program provides free services to help reduce energy use and energy bills. In addition, many community organizations have programs to help ensure that Southwest Michigan residents will not have to worry about how they are going to keep their families warm this winter.”

The Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency also offers emergency aid. Residents may learn more about the agency’s programs by visiting www.smcaa.com.

The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) is a leading provider of utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. For more information, visit www.thawfund.org.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos are available at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Audio.