As we forge through the coldest winter in a generation, we’re helping Michigan residents stay warm and working with statewide nonprofits to develop tools that should let many manage their energy bills more effectively in the future.
As part of our ongoing support to help Michigan Beat the Freeze, we provided $3 million in recent grants to three statewide nonprofit organizations.
- TrueNorth Community Services, The Salvation Army (Eastern Michigan Division and Western Michigan and Northern Indiana Division), and The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) will distribute $2 million in immediate energy assistance that helps income-qualified customers stay up to date with their energy bills.
- Another $1 million will allow THAW to expand its social innovation initiatives, including building upon the Clear Control pilot program currently operating in Flint that helps income-qualified residents reduce their energy usage and better manage energy expenses.
Participants in the Clear Control program receive daily texts that detail their household energy usage costs, make smaller, more frequent payments and receive immediate financial assistance in certain circumstances. Customers remain in the program as long as they stay current on their account.
THAW’s Clear Control pilot program began in October, and there have been noticeable results with the first group of participants. Most have paid bills on time, and participants have used less energy. Lessons learned from Clear Control will be incorporated into the company’s overall energy assistance program design and development, including communities beyond Flint later this year.
“Our partnership with Consumers Energy looks to create sustainable solutions for Michigan’s low income energy consumers,” said Susan Sherer, chief executive officer of THAW. “Our unique corporate-nonprofit collaborative will help foster self-sufficiency among vulnerable households statewide.”
THE HEAT AND WARMTH FUND (THAW) is an independent nonprofit (501(c)(3) agency that provides emergency energy assistance to Michigan residents in need and advocates for long-term energy solutions. THAW was established in 1985 to improve the quality of life in Michigan and prevent human suffering by helping low-income individuals facing an energy crisis.
THE SALVATION ARMY has supported those in need for more than 130 years in the United States. For 31 years, Consumers Energy has partnered with The Salvation Army to meet emergency needs through the PeopleCare program.
TRUENORTH COMMUNITY SERVICES provides client-centered services to 61 Michigan counties by addressing rural poverty, building vibrant communities, and ensuring youth thrive. TrueNorth partners with Consumers Energy to provide vital energy assistance to rural Michigan residents.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Home Heating Credit can be used for all types of primary heating fuel, including natural gas, propane and purchased firewood. Renters may also qualify for the credit.
Even if households do not make enough money to file income taxes, they can still apply for a Home Heating Credit. Applicants are encouraged to file early for this credit to obtain refunds sooner, though the filing deadline is Sept. 30, 2014.
Tax season is an ideal time to file the Home Heating Credit since free preparation assistance is available throughout much of the state. We want to make sure our customers know of these additional ways to receive help with heating bills, and encourage them to find the nearest free tax site by dialing 2-1-1, a free service spearheaded by the United Way.
- Home Heating Credit forms (MI-1040CR-7) are available at most public libraries, Secretary of State branch offices, Department of Human Services branch offices. Consumers Energy customers can call us at (800) 477-5050 to get last year’s total heat cost, which is required to complete the form. This information can also be found on December, January, and February Consumers Energy billing statements.
- The federal Earned Income Credit is another refundable federal income tax credit available to qualifying low-income taxpayers. It must be filed during tax season. For income guidelines, contact your employer, call the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-3676, or visit www.irs.gov.
In addition, we have launched the Severe Weather Assistance Team to help customers pay higher winter bills, and we’re sharing 100 ways to help save energy and Beat the Freeze.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The thought of going through winter with little or no heat is chilling. But for hundreds of Michigan families, it’s reality.
Ongoing budget pressures at the federal and state levels mean that public heating assistance dollars are less certain. Plus, many nonprofits have fewer dollars to give.
To help warm homes, Consumers Energy is sponsoring Walk for Warmth events around the state and encouraging employees and others to participate. The company will match $2 for every dollar raised by employees and those they recruit to walk. Our goal for combined companywide contributions is $172,500.
- The Walks are designed to be fun and are often combined with other activities to generate interest
- Many agencies recruit local public officials and celebrities, such as radio disc jockeys and television personalities
Thanks for your support as we join our neighbors to move our feet and give our community the gift of heat.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
It’s official. Groundhog Phil, the world’s most famous furry forecaster, confirmed Feb. 2 what many of us in Michigan expected – 6 more weeks of winter. Michigan’s weather-prognosticating woodchuck – Woody – also has called for six more weeks of winter.
With the coldest Michigan winter in the past 20 years, we know homes and businesses are using more energy and are concerned about higher bills as furnaces work harder to keep pace.
Consumers Energy is offering the lowest natural gas prices in 10 years thanks to investments in infrastructure and the nation’s fourth largest underground storage capacity, which allows us to buy gas in the summer when prices are generally lower.
Still, we are all facing colder temps and arctic winds – aka the polar vortex. What are you doing to prepare for 6 more weeks of winter?
We’re here to help with tips, tools and programs to help you beat the freeze. Check out our new webpage ConsumersEnergy.com/energyanswers and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more #CEenergytips to save energy this winter.
7 Easy ways to manage your energy bill – VIDEO Beat the Freeze
- Turn down the dial – Every degree you dial down could save 1 to 3 percent on your heating costs.
- Install a programmable thermostat – It can save as much as 20 percent on your heating costs and we offer a $10 rebate
- Tune-up your furnace and clean or replace your filter – Your furnace is the hardest working appliance in your home. Gas customers can contact a Consumers Energy contractor and get $50 off a furnace tune-up
- Reduce water temperature – Lower your water heating temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees
- Let the air flow – Keep furniture, carpeting and curtains from blocking heat registers
- Join the Budget Plan and keep your energy costs steady year-round
- Access our free online Home Energy Analyzer and get more than 100 ways to save on your energy bill
Payment assistance programs available
We also offer assistance programs and payment plans to keep you and your family safe, warm and connected. A new program this year is the Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy:
- CARE offers customers with a household income up to 150 percent of federal poverty level the opportunity to apply for energy bill credits (40 percent of monthly energy charges) through August 2014 and access to energy-saving tools, including in-home energy efficiency upgrades. CARE service territory map
This holiday season there’s no need to search store shelves for that special gift because Gifts of Energy from Consumers Energy make an excellent choice for everyone from senior citizens to college students.
They can help warm a home for a relative, friend, co-worker, neighbor, service provider or just someone who may be in financial need.
Many service clubs, charitable organizations and emergency responders such as fire departments, value Gifts of Energy and purchase multiple certificates to provide to neighbors in need.
Certificates never expire and are available in amounts of $10, $20, $25 and $50. Gifts of Energy can be mailed with monthly Consumers Energy bill payments, and the amount is deducted from the bill total. Certificates cannot be redeemed for cash.
Gifts of Energy don’t include the buyer’s name so they’re perfect if you want to anonymously help someone in your family, your neighborhood or place of worship.
Gifts of Energy can be purchased directly at all Consumers Energy bill payment offices, at participating credit unions or through the mail by sending a check or money order. Requests can be sent to: Consumers Energy, P.O. Box 30079, Lansing, Mich. 48937-0001.
Credit Unions Selling Consumers Energy Gift of Energy Certificates
- CP Federal Credit Union (several Jackson locations, plus Brooklyn and Parma)
- ELGA Credit Union (Burton, Davison and Flushing)
- Clawson Community Credit Union (Clawson)
For more information, visit www.ConsumersEnergy.com/energygift.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Below is a story from a Consumers Energy employee, who works in customer service and a story from MLive: Consumers retiree and World War II veteran was a prisoner of war. See bottom for special payment assistance plans available to military families and veterans.
Military Experience Helps in Customer Service
After graduating from college with a Fine Arts degree, Michelle had a hard time finding a job in her field. She opted to join the Navy in 1987 and spent the next nine years working as a Cryptologic Technician, encoding and decoding classified messages.
When Operation Desert Storm began, she was stationed in Wahiawa, Hawaii at Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific, where satellites on land were used to communicate with naval ships. Michelle was responsible for stopping unnecessary communication so ships in the Indian Ocean could send secure messages to shore.
After Hawaii, Michelle was stationed in Guam for two-and-a-half years, where she experienced an earthquake that measured 8.2 on the Richter scale and seven typhoons.
“This is really where I can tie back my time with the Navy to working at Consumers Energy,” she said. “I can appreciate what our customers are going through when natural disasters hit and the power is out. We had to work with local residents to provide assistance and share power sources from the base.”
DID YOU KNOW? Military families and veterans are eligible for special payment assistance with Consumers Energy and the state of Michigan. See more payment assistance plans for all customers at http://www.ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance.
Shut-off Protection: Active Duty in the Military
If you or your spouse is the Consumers Energy customer of record and is called to full-time active military service by the president of the United States or the governor of Michigan during a time of declared national or state emergency or war, you may apply for shut-off protection for up to 90 days and you may request an extension of this protection by reapplying. You still will be required to pay for the energy you used during your participation in this program. Call us at (800) 477-5050.
Michigan Veteran’s Trust Fund
Temporary assistance for emergencies or hardships, including energy assistance, is available to eligible wartime veterans and their families in Michigan. Contact: http://michigan.gov/dmva or (517) 284-5299. County Contacts for Veterans with Emergencies
There is still time for qualifying Michigan residents to apply for help in paying their heating bills. Consumers Energy encourages qualifying residential customers to file for a State of Michigan Home Heating Credit for 2012. Deadline to file is Sept. 30, 2013 if they have not yet received the credit this year.
Home Heating Credit Claim form (MI-1040CR-7) and booklet.
Since January, more than 81,600 Consumers Energy customers have received a credit on the average of $136 per household.
Last year, nearly 403,000 Michigan residents received $58 million in aid through the Home Heating Credit program, which is funded by the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Home Heating Credit is based on household size and income. It can be applied to all heating costs, including propane and purchased firewood. Applicants do not need to file a state tax return to receive this credit.
For customers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Livingston counties, free filing assistance is still available at 5 metro-area locations through the Accounting Aid Society at 1-866-673-0873.
Consumers Energy can provide applicants with their annual heating cost, required on the form (Line 11), by calling 800-477-5050. Additional information for Consumers Energy customers on how to apply for a Home Heating Credit is available on the payment assistance section of our website.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
More than 1,000 Consumers Energy employees and their family and friends recently united at events around the state and raised $112,000 to help warm Michigan homes.
“Every dollar raised will go toward helping our most vulnerable customers, including those who are elderly and disabled, and those who can’t afford to pay their heating bills,” said Patti Poppe, Consumers Energy’s vice president of customer experience and operations.
Consumers Energy recently joined local Community Action Agencies to support 31 Walk for Warmth events across Michigan. Consumers Energy matched all funds raised by employees and any participating family and friends, thereby doubling heating assistance for those in need.
With ongoing budget pressures at the federal and state level, there is an uncertainty in the amount of authorized public heating assistance dollars to go around. That has led to Walk for Warmth events playing an increasingly important role in assisting Michigan families.
“Consumers Energy’s support for Walk for Warmth is a great example of corporate citizenship,” said Mike Shalley, communications director for the Michigan Community Action Agency Association. “The company and its dedicated employees really came through on their promise to serve the community, including those who are facing very tough times and need a little help to make ends meet.”
Michigan nonprofit organizations received $10 million in contributions in 2012 from Consumers Energy, its employees, retirees, its Foundation, and the utility’s parent company, CMS Energy. Half of the contributions in 2012 went to organizations that provide direct assistance to those in need including: The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW), The Salvation Army and TrueNorth Community Services.
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