Struggling with heating bills? Help may be available

With winter just around the corner, the Michigan Senate Republicans want to remind families struggling with heating bills that help may be available.

First, if you are unable to pay your bills, please contact the utility company ASAP and explain the situation. Being proactive could save your life by ensuring the heat stays on.

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.

It is important to remember that this is a deferment plan, not a financial assistance program. 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 includes details on the Weatherization Assistance Program and Home Heating Credit.

In addition, many organizations have programs to help ensure that Michigan residents will not have to worry about how they are going to keep their families warm this winter.

The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) is a leading provider of utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. Since its inception in 1985, THAW has distributed more than $160 million in assistance to more than 223,000 Michigan households. For more information, visit www.thawfund.org.