Excerpts from Gongwer:
A package of bills unveiled Tuesday in the Senate would allow low-income families to seek assistance paying their heating bills before they receive a shut-off notice. Under the bills (SB 1134, SB 1135), families earning 115 percent of poverty or less would be eligible for assistance as soon as they get behind on a bill or when their fuel supply drops below 25 percent, sponsors told the Senate Energy and Technology Committee.
"We're moving away from the idea that there has to be a shut-off notice to be an emergency," Sen. Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) said. Waiting that long, he said, means the state paying reconnection fees as well as helping residents bring their bills up to date. "It will include services that allow individuals to become or move toward becoming energy self-sufficient," Mr. Caswell said.
But 92 percent of the funds would have to be used for heating assistance unless the agency receiving the grant had permission to expand self-sufficiency programs to 10 percent of the funds. The program also would only allow federal funds to be used for the self-sufficiency programs.
The package creates the Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, and all of that money would have to be used for financial assistance. The fund is capped at $60 million annually, and can be filled either with a state general fund contribution or with a fee on electric customers. The program has become a part of the budget target talks between Governor Rick Snyder and legislative leaders.