Lawmakers put forward plan to help families keep heat on

Nov 30, 2011

Low-income households that have trouble paying for utilities could soon get help from the state to keep the heat on through the winter. Republicans in the state House have introduced a proposal to tap into one-time federal funds to help pay for home heating assistance.

Funding for home-heating assistance was hit hard this year. Michigan’s home-heating funds were frozen because of a state Court of Appeals decision. At the same time, the federal government reduced home-heating payments to states.

“It’s going to be a very cold winter," said Rep. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth). "Even with natural gas prices down slightly this year, we think that the colder temperatures and the heavier snows that we expect are going to cause heating bills to be a little bit higher this year, so we’re trying to prepare for a rough season.”

Advocates for low-income families say the move is a step in the right direction.

"We were facing a situation where Michigan had virtually no utility assistance that it was contributing from a statewide level, and this begins the process of restoring that critical fund," said Scott Dzurka, president of the Michigan Association of United Ways.

Democratic lawmakers say the bigger issue will be finding long-term home heating assistance.