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Michigan program can help with heating bills

Thermometer on snow shows low temperatures - zero.
weyo - stock.adobe.com
Thermometer on snow shows low temperatures - zero.

As cold weather moves in, state agencies in Michigan are working to make sure people know how to apply for the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) if they think they might struggle with their heating bills this winter.

MEAP helps low-income residents pay their energy bills on time, apply for affordable payment plans and utilize energy services to increase efficiency and keep bills down.

Shama Mounzer, integration executive director for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, said many of the clients they serve make between 100% and 150% of the poverty level, which equates to a family of three making less than $24,000 a year.

"We see usually average bills in the wintertime of $400 to $500 a month," Mounzer noted. "And looking at the income of our households that we see, how can they afford really paying those high bills?"

Mounzer pointed out to access the MEAP program, residents can apply for state emergency relief through the state Department of Health and Human Services. She added it is important to contact your local Community Action agency if you have any questions about the process or what documents are needed.

Mounzer emphasized in addition to providing financial assistance to help folks pay their bills, agencies also help with weatherization, stressing it is particularly important in communities where homes are not recently updated.

"The usage is very high, and that is also very tied to the structure and the condition of the homes in Wayne County," Mounzer stated. "So a lot of our homes, they need to be weatherized, they don't have the appropriate insulation to really keep the energy and the heat inside the house."

Experts recommended making sure your heating system is upgraded and working as efficiently as possible to keep bills down. They also suggested checking filters and vents are clean; working to caulk, weatherstrip and seal drafty doors and windows; and to open blinds and curtains during the day to take advantage of the natural heat from sunlight.

Originally from just outside Boston, Lily Bohlke is formerly from 2020Talks, a show tracking politics and elections, that started prior to the 2020 Iowa caucuses at KHOI in Ames. She's also a past intern for the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism.
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