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Published 3/28/2020
9:43pm

State leaders outline protections, assistance available for energy utility customers 

Eligibility window to apply has also been increased from 14 to 28 days

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The State of Michigan is working with utility companies to ensure protections are in place for customers as efforts to help slow the spread of the coronavirus impact families and businesses across the state.

Major utilities including the state’s two largest, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, have enacted moratoriums on service disconnections, and are extending flexible payment plans, for low-income customers, seniors and those impacted by illness or job losses related to the pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order directs Michiganders to stay in their homes except for approved reasons such as critical infrastructure jobs or performing tasks necessary for health and safety, at least through April 13, 2020.

“Michiganders are tough, and we will get through this emergency by helping one another,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “We are fortunate that utilities across Michigan have stepped up with proactive policies to assist those in need during this crisis.”

“During these unprecedented times with a variety of concerns, worrying about utility bills should not be one of them,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “As Chief Consumer Advocate for this state, I am heartened to hear Michigan utilities voluntarily stepping up to help their customers.”

Robert Gordon, Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said maintaining electric and heating service is critical in the battle to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. “Michiganders need to stay home, and many are dealing with lost income,” Gordon said. “We must do everything we can to keep people safe at home while we work to reduce the impact of the coronavirus, and we appreciate our partners at energy utilities throughout the state who are stepping up to pause service disconnections and provide flexibility to customers in need.”

Utilities, including those regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission as well as municipal and cooperative owned utilities, have instituted policies to help protect vulnerable customers during this crisis, ranging from suspended disconnections and assistance to reconnect service to payment assistance.

Funds also are available through partnering organizations to help eligible customers who are behind on their utility bills. In an effort to serve Michigan families struggling with energy costs related to COVID-19 as effectively as possible, the Department of Health and Human Services will take a number of actions to streamline the application process for its primary energy assistance program, State Emergency Relief.

“We encourage anyone who anticipates difficulty paying their energy bills not to wait, and to reach out to their utility company as soon as they can to work out payment options,” said Sally Talberg, Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned energy companies in Michigan. “Each utility may vary, but whether you a have medical or financial need, payment protections and assistance are available.”
 
Michiganders who use propane for home heating also are eligible for income-based assistance programs. Customers with heating costs that they are unable to pay should first contact their energy supplier and explain their situation before they run out of fuel.

Home energy assistance

• Be Proactive - Contact your utility company as soon as you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time.
• Call 2-1-1 or click on www.mi211.org to learn about agencies in your county that may assist with your energy bill.
• State Emergency Relief (SER) may help low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills, assist in keeping utilities in service, or have service restored. The program is available year-round. Call your local Department of Health and Human Services office for information or apply on MI Bridges. Households must apply for SER assistance prior to receiving any Michigan Energy Assistance Program services.
• The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) works with households to provide supplemental bill payment assistance and self-sufficiency services to low-income residents statewide. At the time of SER application, applicants will be able to choose a MEAP provider to work with. A list of organizations that deliver MEAP services can be found on the MPSC’s website. MEAP grantees are all community partners with MDHHS and can help applicants to navigate the MDHHS application process.
• Connect with an MDHHS community partner to help work through the process of applying for assistance.
• Home Heating Credit qualified persons may receive a credit to help pay winter heating bills. Apply for a Home Heating Credit if you are low-income or receive public assistance or unemployment compensation. Eligible customers must meet guidelines based on household income, exemptions and heating costs. You must apply by Sept. 30 each year. The application form (MI-1040CR-7) can be requested from the Michigan Department of Treasury at 517-636-4486, or visit website at www.michigan.gov/treasury.

Gov. Whitmer’s executive order also directed all Michigan businesses and operations to temporarily suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life. For business customers, utility companies may be able to offer flexible payment terms or suggestions to manage utility bills under these extraordinary circumstances.

Safety tips

Under Gov. Whitmer’s stay-home order, utility workers are considered essential as they work to keep Michigan’s energy infrastructure safe and reliable. Their health is critical to maintaining energy service.

• Please practice social distancing and do not approach workers if you see them outside. If a utility worker comes to your home on a service call, please maintain a minimum of six feet of distance from them.
• If you experience a power outage or an emergency such as a wire down, contact your utility as you normally would.
• New utility service hookups and construction of new utility service lines may be delayed as utilities prioritize work and protect employees and the public; contact your utility to see if your schedule may be impacted.
• Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of: 

• Fever   
• Cough   
• Shortness of breath   

The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19, is to:   

• If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, call the nearest hospital.   Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.     
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.     
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.     
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.     
• If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.    
• Stay at least 6 feet away from others when in a public setting.   

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at www.Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and www.CDC.gov/Coronavirus.  

Utility contact information

For specific information about bill assistance or flexible payment plans, contact your utility directly.

Investor-owned utilities

Alpena Power Co. 989-358-4900, www.alpenapower.com

Aurora Gas Co. 989-733-6625, www.pieg.com

Citizens Gas Fuel Co. 800-982-2831, www.citizensgasfuel.com

Consumers Energy Co. 800-477-5050, www.consumersenergy.com

DTE Energy Co. 800-477-4747, www.dteenergy.com

Indiana Michigan Power Co. 800-672-2231, www.indianamichiganpower.com

Michigan Gas Utilities 800-401-6402, accel.michigangasutilities.com

Northern States Power Co. (Xcel) 800-895-4999, www.xcelenergy.com

Semco Energy Gas Co. 800-624-2019, www.semcoenergygas.com

Superior Energy Co. 888-468-2828, www.secnaturalgas.com

Upper Michigan Energy Resources 800-242-9137, www.uppermichiganenergy.com

for former WEPCO customers
800-450-7260

for former WPSC customers

Upper Peninsula Power Co. 800-562-7680, www.uppco.com

Wisconsin Electric Power Co. 800-242-9137, www.we-energies.com

Municipal utilities

Baraga 906-353-6237, www.villageofbaraga.com.

Bay City 989-894-8350, www.baycitymi.org

Charlevoix 231-547-3273, www.cityofcharlevoix.org

Chelsea 734-475-1771, www.city-chelsea.org

Clinton 517-456-7494, www.villageofclinton.org

Coldwater 517-279-9531, www.coldwater.org

Croswell 810-679-2299, www.cityofcroswell.com

Crystal Falls 906-875-3212, www.crystalfalls.org

Daggett 906-753-6931

Dowagiac 269-782-2195, www.cityofdowagiac.com

Eaton Rapids 517-663-8118, www.cityofeatonrapids.com

Escanaba 906-786-0552, www.escanaba.org

Gladstone 906-428-3737, www.gladstonemi.org

Grand Haven 616.846.6250, www.ghblp.org

Harbor Springs 231-526-2122, www.cityofharborsprings.com

Hart 231-923-0012, www.cityofhart.org

Hillsdale 517-437-3387, www.cityofhillsdale.org/bpu

Holland 616-355-1500, www.hollandbpw.com

L’Anse 906-524-6116, www.villageoflanse.org

Lansing 517-702-6006, www.lbwl.com

Lowell 616-897-8402, www.lowell-light.org

Marquette 906-228-0311, www.mblp.org

Marshall 269-558-0329, www.cityofmarshall.com

Negaunee 906-475-7700, www.cityofnegaunee.com

Newberry 906-293-3433, www.villageofnewberry.com

Niles 269-683-4700, www.nilesmi.org

Norway 906-563-9961, www.norwaymi.gov

Paw Paw 269-657-3148, www.pawpaw.net

Petoskey 231-347-2500, www.petoskey.us

Portland 517-647-7531, www.portland-michigan.org

St. Louis 989-681-2137, www.stlouismi.com

Sebewaing 989-883-2700, www.slandw.com

South Haven 269-637-0700, www.south-haven.com

Stephenson 906-753-6228, www.stephenson-mi.com

Sturgis 269-659-7287, www.sturgismi.gov

Traverse City 231-922-4431, www.tclp.org

Union City 517-741-8591, www.visitunioncity.com

Wakefield 906-229-5131, www.cityofwakefield.org

Wyandotte 734-324-7100, www.wyandotte.net

Zeeland 616-772-6212, www.zeelandbpw.com

Rural electric co-operatives

Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Assoc. 906-428-4141, www.algerdelta.com

Cherryland Electric Cooperative 231-486-9200, www.cecelec.com

Great Lakes Energy Cooperative 888-485-2537, www.gtlakes.com

HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Co-op 800-562-8232, www.homeworks.org

Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989, www.teammidwest.com

Ontonagon County REA 906-884-4151, www.ontonagon.coop

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op 989-733-8515, www.pieg.com

Thumb Electric Cooperative 989-658-8571, www.tecmi.coop

Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative 231-775-5700, www.wpsci.com

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.  

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Update 3/29/2020

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A Muskegon man who fell through ice at Pere Marquette Park in late February perished.  A body recently pulled from Lake Michigan has been identified as 30 year old Ramal Roby.