Proos: Low-income heating aid saves lives

LANSING – Sen. John Proos applauded Gov. Rick Snyder for recently signing legislation that will ensure that thousands of low-income Southwest Michigan residents who may have faced heating utility shut-offs will be able to keep their homes and families warm this winter.

“Winter in Michigan can be harsh and the assistance to low-income families to help them heat their homes will saves lives,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Due to a recent court decision, an estimated 130,000 eligible Michigan residents faced losing this heating assistance. That loss would have forced them to choose between risking freezing or using alternative means for heat, like grills or the car, which have led to accidental fires and deaths.”

A state Court of Appeals decision ruled the Michigan Public Service Commission could not operate the Low Income Energy Efficiency Funding (LIEEF), a supplement to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIEEF was a long-standing program created by a surcharge on utility bills that was struck down by the courts due to language inadvertently deleted during a 2008 update of the law.

Public Acts 274 and 275 of 2011 continue an existing charge to customers on their electric and natural gas bills to raise $48 million for a new Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund.

Proos noted that the charge is approximately a 50 percent reduction in the cost currently born by rate payers.

“This holiday season vulnerable Southwest Michigan parents will not have to worry about how they are going to keep their children warm,” Proos said. “I commend the governor for helping solve the immediate problem of low-income heating during the winter, and I look forward to working with him to create a comprehensive, fair and long-term solution.”