Low Income Energy Assistance Fund Q & A

Low Income Energy Assistance Fund Q & A

Q: My bill has a new surcharge labeled, “Michigan Low Income Energy Fund.” What is that?
A: The Michigan Low Income Energy Fund was established by the Michigan legislature as a long term solution to assist low-income, at-risk residents with their utility bills. The intention is to provide funds to prevent disconnection of service and to help people become more energy self-sufficient. The program is funded by Michigan residents with a line item on their utility bill.

Q: How did the MPSC arrive at the surcharge of 93 cents?
A: The MPSC determined, based on the funding needed for the 2017-2018 heating season and the number of meters paying the surcharge, that 93 cents per address was the appropriate amount needed to fund the program. The surcharge amount can be lower by statute but cannot exceed $1 per month. As a program, MEAP cannot collect more than $50 million statewide.

Q: I’ve got a pole barn and a garage on my residential property with separate meters. Will I have to pay this surcharge on every meter under my name?
A: The intent is that the factor will not be charged on more than one residential meter per residential site, but pole barns and garages are general service, not residential accounts.

Q: How much will be available to help my fellow members?
A: Based on a figure of 25,200 meters, HomeWorks Tri-County will, on behalf of the State, collect $281,232 for LIEAF in the coming year.

Q: Is LIEAF mandated by the State of Michigan?
A: Technically no, but utilities that opt-out are barred from disconnecting meters as a collection action between November 1 and April 15.

Q: If HomeWorks opted out, would members be able to access energy assistance?
A: HomeWorks has opted out for the past three years, and members were able to apply for assistance with their utility bills. However, for the 2017-2018 heating season we have been informed by the state that members might not have that safety net if we do not participate. Your board of directors and staff were not willing to risk losing that safety net for our members and their families.

Q: How do I access energy assistance?
A: Contact your county’s Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) office; call 2-1- 1 for a list of agencies that may be able to assist you; check with local churches; or apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund grant by calling 1-888- 421-8956, ext. 1213.

Q: When does the heating season start and end?
A: The heating (crisis) season begins November 1 and ends April 15.
 
Q: What determines when a customer is in “crisis?”
A: “Crisis” means one of the following:
  • A customer has received a past due notice on an energy bill for his or her household.
  • A residential fuel tank is estimated to contain no more than 25% of its heating fuel capacity.
  • A need for deliverable fuel or a nontraditional fuel in which there is no meter or regular energy bill provided.
  • A notice that the balance in a prepayment account is below a minimum amount.
Q: What is “energy assistance?”
A: "Energy assistance" means assisting eligible low-income households in paying for their primary residence home energy costs through payment, or partial payment, of bills for one of more of the following: electricity, natural gas, propane, heating oil, or any other deliverable fuel used to provide heat.

Q: When can an electric utility shut off a customer for not paying a delinquent account?
A: HomeWorks Tri-County is an opt-in utility, and there are no changes to current shut-off protection policy. We can disconnect any meter between November 1 and April 15 for non-payment; there are certain exceptions for senior citizens, deployed military service members, and for medical emergencies. Opt-out utilities cannot shut-off service to a residential customer from November 1 to April 15 for non-payment of a delinquent account. Presumably, they can shut-off service to any non-residential customer.

Q: Does the MEAP change current law and practices affecting shut-off protections for certain people?
A: No. The current law and guidelines for the state’s Winter Protection Plan (WAP) are unchanged.

Q: Is Michigan going to take my money to help someone on the other side of the state?
A: The intent of the law is that funds collected from our members will be distributed within our service territory by DHS.

Q: I’m on your pre-paid billing system. How does that affect my eligibility for assistance?
A: Traditional customers are eligible for assistance when they receive a past due notice on an energy bill. A notice that the balance in a prepayment account is below a minimum amount ($100 according to DHHS) constitutes eligibility.

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