Nofs: Low-income families will stay warm this winter as governor signs Senate bills into law

LANSING, Mich.—Low-income residents who may have faced heating utility shut-offs this winter will be able to keep their homes and families warm after Senate legislation was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder today.

“I am glad that the Legislature was able to come together to find a solution so low-income Michigan residents could continue to receive heating assistance this winter,” said Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, who chairs the Energy and Technology Committee and helped usher the measures through the Senate. 

A state Court of Appeals decision ruled the Michigan Public Service Commission could not operate the Low Income Energy Efficiency Funding (LIEEF) as a supplemental to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIEFF was a long-standing program created by a surcharge on utility bills that was struck down by the courts due to language inadvertently deleted during a 2008 update of the law.

Senate Bill 864 (Public Act 274 of 2011) and SB 364 (PA 275) together, temporarily, continue an existing charge to customers on their electric and natural gas bills to help the estimated 130,000 Michiganders who qualify for assistance on their home heating costs. The charge is approximately a 50 percent reduction in the cost currently borne by rate payers. This is expected to raise $48 million to be deposited in a new Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund created by the legislation.

The plan helps Michigan deal with the immediate problem of low-income heating during the winter while giving the Legislature ample time to create a comprehensive, fair and long-term replacement.