If you've gotten behind on your utility bills, there's help available.  In fact, there's some funding left over, as the state's fiscal year winds down.  Ken Toll ,  President & CEO of United Way of Jackson County, which oversees the Program Assistance Center managing the utility assistance program was a guest on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins.   Toll says that even people who received assistance earlier in the year might qualify again, if they apply right away.   

The fund is a statewide partnership, providing affordable payment plans and other resources to help financially struggling households pay their utility bills.  Assistance is available to any income-qualified household in Michigan, regardless of location. The Program Assistance Center, a call center operated by United Way of Jackson County (UWJC), connects customers to get the help they need.

Toll says the best way to find out if you qualify is to go on-line and apply, and let them sort it out.

UWJC is working with Consumers Energy Company, DTE, SEMCO and many other utility providers as part of the statewide Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), according to Heather Kapustka, Program Administrator for UWJC’s Program Assistance Center. Help is available for users of propane, wood and alternative fuels, too.

Help that is available to eligible, income-qualified customers includes the following:

  • Enrollment into an Affordable Payment Plan, such as CARE (for Consumers Energy customers), LSP (for DTE customers), MAP (for SEMCO customers) and EASE (for UPPCO customers).
  • One-time utility assistance.
  • Needs assessment and short-term case management, which involves identifying what a client’s needs are beyond utility assistance (e.g., home weatherization, personalized budget coaching, food assistance, household supplies etc.) and developing a plan to address those needs.
  •  eHome America Money management, an online course that takes an hour or so and gives information on managing personal finances, credit scores and more.
  • Other information and resources to help individuals and families build a pathway to financial stability.

Eligible enrollees must be approved for State Emergency Assistance (SER) through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; have an account balance less than the targeted amount for the applied program, must be 18 years of age or older and a U.S. citizen or legal alien, and must not have theft or fraud on a utility account. If there is theft or fraud on an enrollee’s account, United Way’s Program Assistance Center will help the person through the process of addressing it and moving forward with the application.

Utility assistance funding is provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

To apply online, go to www.helpwithutilities.com. For help with the process, or to receive an application by mail, call (517) 741- 0202 or email PAC@uwjackson.org.

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