Utility Shutoffs Concern City Officials - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

Utility Shutoffs Concern City Officials

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 LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Officials with the city of Lansing say they are struggling to assist needy and vulnerable populations who can’t pay their utility bills and are asking the state to step in to help. 

Joan Jackson Johnson, director of Lansing’s Department of Human Relations and Community Services said her office gets 40-50 calls per day from families, the elderly and those with disabilities whose electricity or water has been shut off for nonpayment. “Our phones have absolutely been blowing up with citizens without water, some without power, and there’s nowhere to send them,” said Jackson Johnson. “The city of Lansing has done everything within their ability to try to assist, but that’s not what we’re in the business for.”

Michigan’s Department of Human Services offers utility assistance, but only during what they’ve labeled crisis season, which runs from November 1 to May 31 of each year.

According to its website, the department’s mission is to “[improve] the quality of life in Michigan by providing services to vulnerable children and adults that will strengthen the community and enable families and individuals to move toward independence.” But Jackson Johnson said the limited utility assistance does the opposite.

“The state is saying that there are no emergencies this time of the year, and that’s absolutely appalling,” said Jackson Johnson. “It’s literally a dark situation in more ways than one.”

Charities such as St. Vincent De Paul Society often step in to help those in need with their utilities, but officials say they have run out of money for the month. “We actually took money out of reserves the last few months in addition to what we would normally spend,” said director Stephen Maiville. He blames the harsh winter for the low funds, but says there will be some money available for next month.

6 News reached out to DHS, but our calls have not yet been returned.

For more information on how you can help those in need, contact the city of Lansing at 517-483-4477. You can also reach St. Vincent De Paul Society at 517-484-5395. 

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