Proos: Home heating help may be available

Senator John Proos

Senator John Proos

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos on Friday encouraged Southwest Michigan residents struggling with winter heating bills to take advantage of several assistance programs offered through the state, utility companies or charitable organizations.

“Michigan winters can be harsh and with winter just around the corner, it’s a good time to remind area families that help with 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 utility bills in the winter. However, immediate help may be available if you are facing conditions of extreme hardship or emergency.”

The State Emergency Relief Program offers financial assistance for low-income residents who are normally able to make ends meet but may need help due to an unexpected emergency. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance.

“The site also includes information on the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Home Heating Credit,” Proos said. “In addition, many charity and 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 Diocesan Heating Assistance Program will be available for aid beginning on Jan. 4. The program is funded by contributions and provides heating assistance to residents in need who live within the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo region. Residents should contact their local parish to apply for assistance.

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 will be available later on the senator’s website at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Audio” under the Media Center tab.