Gov. Whitmer reminds Michiganders of heat shutoff protections

Michigan

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other state agencies released a statement on Wednesday reminding Michiganders about heat shutoff protections, financial assistance, and other resources that can help keep them warm this winter.

“There is help available for working families, seniors, and other Michiganders to stay safe and warm this winter,” said Governor Whitmer in a press release. “We will continue working together to put Michiganders first and lower costs for families this winter, and I urge anyone struggling with home heating costs to call 211 or go to mi211.org to learn more about resources for those in need.” 

Whitmer made the announcement alongside Attorney General Dana Nessel, the Michigan Public Service Commission, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

 Here are some ways Whitmer says you can get help staying warm:

  • Qualifying utility customers may be eligible for State Emergency Relief (SER) or the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), which provide financial assistance. To learn more, go to www.michigan.gov/mibridges or call your local MDHHS office. If you need help applying, call 211 and ask for a MEAP grantee near you for help. 
  • The Winter Protection Plan protects both seniors and low-income customers of MPSC-regulated natural gas and electric companies. Customers may find relief from electric or natural gas service shutoff and high utility payments during the home heating season, Nov. 1 to March 31. To apply for this or other shut-off protection plans, contact your utility. In addition to the Winter Protection Plan, there are medical emergencycritical care and active-duty military family shut-off protections.  
  • Households eligible for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program can receive utility assistance for tenant supplied electricity, home heating (any type of fuel), water, sewer, and trash (if billed along with another utility). For full program details, go to www.michigan.gov/cera
  •  Apply for a Home Heating Credit. Visit the Michigan Department of Treasury’s website to see if you qualify. Even though this funding is distributed by the Department of Treasury, you do not need to pay taxes or wait for a tax return to receive this credit, so apply now if you are eligible. For more information, visit Michigan Public Service Commission Home Heating Credit. 
  • Households also can take steps to use energy more efficiently through winterization of their homes. Local Community Action Agencies may help with weatherization if specific low-income guidelines are met. Visit the MDHHS Weatherization Operators website to find a Weatherization Operator in your county. 
  • Taking actions including regularly changing furnace filters, installing a programmable thermostat, sealing air leaks around windows and doors can help reduce energy use and save you money. The MPSC offers the brochure “Energy Saver-Tips on Saving Money and Energy in Your Home.” For a free copy, call the MPSC at 800-292-9555. This brochure and others on important utility issues are also available on the MPSC’s website, www.michigan.gov/mpsc. In addition, a variety of energy resources and information is available at www.michigan.gov/bewinterwise

Michigan officials also warned of utility scams this time of year, saying the following via a press release:

Beware of utility scams; report unfair prices.

The Department of Attorney General provides consumer protection resources through Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Utility Imposter Scams Consumer Alert

Utility companies may offer you the option to pay over the phone but will never demand immediate payment by phone. They will also never engage in the following:  

  •  Solicit personal information in the name of signing you up for a government program that claims to reduce energy bills.  
  • Make unannounced visits to collect a bill or threaten shutoff. Utilities will never threaten to disrupt or disconnect service either in person, over the phone, or by email.  All late payment notices are mailed USPS and provide the steps to restore the account to good standing.  
  • Show up at your home unannounced to inspect or repair equipment, investigate a leak or do a free audit for energy efficiency. Consumers are notified in advance of a home visit.    
  •  Request personal or financial information, such as your social security number, utility account number, or payment information. Instead, customers are asked to validate account information such as billing zip code, home address, or the phone number associated with the account.    
  • Claim you are entitled to a refund or rebate and ask for bank account or credit card information to make the alleged refund.   
  • Use aggressive tactics to get into your home. Utility companies require employees to always wear a company identification badge that will be produced upon request.   

“If you have any doubt about a caller or someone who comes to your door without proper identification, contact your utility using the phone number on your most recent bill and ask to speak to a customer service representative,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “You should also file a complaint with my office so the proper authorities can respond accordingly.”  

To report a utility scam or if you have information regarding potentially unfair energy costs, you can file a consumer complaint online

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