Payment Assistance

Consumers Energy Offers Protection Services to Senior Citizens, Enroll Now

Posted on August 21, 2014. Filed under: budget plan, Community, Consumers, electric, Electricity, energy, energy value, In Your Community Q&A, incentives, payment, Payment Assistance, PeopleCare, Rates, storm, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Fall is almost upon us. As the leaves start to change, the crisp temperatures will soon follow. Before we know it, our winter clothes will need to come out and so will our heavy blankets. During this time of year, it is especially important to Consumers Energy to take care of senior citizens.

Top 10 Ways to Protect Senior Citizens During Cold Months

We have many payment assistance options and services to prepare seniors for unexpected weather conditions or life changes. If you’re 65 or older and the head of the household, you may qualify for:

  1. Shut-off Protection

This service provides protection from shut-off for seniors during the harshest months, Nov. 1-March 31. The plan requires

  • Initial down payment of 10 percent of your total bill
  • Participation in a Budget Plan that spreads out your annual energy costs into equal payments plus equal monthly payments on your past-due balance
  • TO ENROLL: (800) 477-5050
  1. Third Party Notification

With your written authorization, Consumers Energy can send a copy of any shut-off notice you receive to a third party like a consenting friend, relative or agency. While the third party contact is not responsible for paying your bill, they may act as a liaison between you and Consumers Energy.

  1. Winter Protection Plan (WPP)

Participation in this plan prevents service shut-off and high payments during the winter (Nov. 1 to March 31). The plan requires:

  • An initial down payment of 1/12 of any past due bills
  • From November through March, you’ll pay 7 percent of your estimated annual bill plus a portion of any past-due amount
  • When WPP ends March 31, you must pay your full monthly bill, plus part of the amount you owe from the winter months when you did not pay in full
  • At the end of the WPP period, you must make arrangements to pay any money owed before the start of the next protection period
  • Enrollment begins Nov. 1. TO ENROLL: (800) 477-5050
  1. PeopleCare

This program involves charitable giving to The Salvation Army from Consumers Energy customers, employees and retirees. The donations help people and families with emergency needs like food, clothing, transportation, shelter, home heating and medicine.

Check out more information about PeopleCare!

  1. Payment Arrangements

If you need more time to pay your bill, visit eServices to make Payment Arrangements or call (800) 477-5050.

External sources of assistance for senior citizens in Michigan:

  1. Call 2-1-1

This is a free phone service available to 99 percent of Michigan. The service links people with information or agencies that helps with utility assistance and other needs. Visit uwmich.org/2-1-1 for more information.

  1. The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW)

This service provides emergency help to low-income families and individuals in Michigan who are in danger of losing heat or electricity during winter. Learn more about THAW at (800) 866-THAW (8429).

  1. Home Heating Credit (HHC)

To apply for a Home Heating Credit, you must meet the income guidelines and own or rent the home where you live (excludes rented apartments and mobile homes). Forms are available wherever other tax forms are provided. The annual deadline to apply is Sept. 30.

  1. Elder Law of Michigan

Senior Citizens and people with disabilities can get help paying for the cost of important basic needs like food, medicine, healthcare, utilities, housing and taxes. For more information, call (800) 347-5297 or visit www.elderlawofmi.org/benefits.

  1. Other Energy Assistance Programs

Learn more about heating assistance programs provided by the state of Michigan for income-qualified households.

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Consumers Energy Working with Fifth Third Bank to Offer Free Energy, Financial Assistance in Michigan

Posted on June 18, 2014. Filed under: bill, Community, Education, electric, Electricity, energy, Energy Efficiency, Events, Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Did you know your Consumers Energy bill features a 13-month energy use graph with the energy use and cost per day?

BillBlogWe’re working with Fifth Third Bank and other community organizations this week in Jackson, Lansing and Kalamazoo to host community resource fairs that bring financial and energy services directly into low to moderate income communities.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and see one of our representatives. Consumers Energy offers many rebates and special programs to help customers save energy and save money with energy efficiency. Learn more at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/myhome. We also offer several bill payment assistance programs at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance.

The community events feature Fifth Third Bank’s Empowerment eBus, a 40-foot mobile meeting place, and will include:

  • Housing, rental and utility information
  • Foreclosure prevention
  • Employment and career resources
  • Credit reviews (without credit score)
  • Much more

When and Where

  • Jackson: Event held June 17 evening.
  • Lansing: June 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the CATA Transportation Center, 420 S. Grand Avenue in Lansing
  • Kalamazoo: June 20 from 11 a.m. 3 p.m. at Park Street Market, 512 N. Park Street and Saturday, June 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Town & Country Center, 1824 Portage Street
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Consumers Energy’s Budget Plan Allows Michigan Residents to Manage Bills Predictably During All Seasons

Posted on June 12, 2014. Filed under: Business, Electricity, Natural Gas, payment, Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

As spring transitions to summer in Michigan, we’re encouraging residents and businesses to manage their energy bills for all seasons by enrolling in the monthly Budget Plan.

BudgetPlanThis free resource will help deliver a predictable bill and avoid surprises when Michigan weather leads to higher energy use during extreme temperatures.

  • The Budget Plan works by evening out bill payments over time. Instead of paying more when energy use is highest – such as during the recent extremely cold winter – residents or businesses pay a set monthly amount
  • More than 300,000 Consumers Energy homes and businesses are enrolled in the Budget Plan today
  • Enrollment is free and the plan fits any lifestyle

June is the ideal time for customers who use natural gas to enroll because it is the first month of the Budget Plan year. Electric-only customers will benefit most by signing up in October. Enroll today by visiting www.ConsumersEnergy.com/budgetplan or calling (800) 477-5050. Budget Plan FAQs

Residents and business owners also can streamline their bill paying by coordinating the Budget Plan with Consumers Energy’s Direct Pay or online debit and credit card payment options. Customers who choose the Direct Pay service can receive their energy bill electronically via e-mail or receive a paper bill. Learn more at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/waystopay.

We’re working hard to keep the price of natural gas and electricity low for the Michigan residents we serve. We offer many ways to pay and will work with anyone who needs assistance to pay their bill.

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Springing Forward with Safety and Consumers Energy Winter Wrap-Up

Posted on March 28, 2014. Filed under: Company Operations, Electric Safety, History, Natural Gas, Natural Gas Safety, Payment Assistance, Safety, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Click above to watch the video to learn ways to save energy at home.

Click above to watch the video to learn ways to save energy at home.

As we all look forward to warmer weather and getting outdoors, we remind you to dig safely and watch out for overhead wires. Look up and look out for wires, and always call 811 before starting any digging project to mark underground pipes and wires.

Now that we are thinking safety first, here’s a quick look back in our winter wrap-up.

  • One of the coldest winters in a generation caused Michigan homeowners to use 20 percent more natural gas this winter compared to a year ago.
    —  However, the typical Consumers Energy residential customer paid just 10 percent more for natural gas
    —  Consumers Energy prices were down 8 percent from last winter
  • We created the Severe Weather Assistance Team to help Michigan residents concerned about bills
    —  The team made 120,000 calls to customers in less than six weeks
    —  Made payment arrangements with customers, enrolled them in our Budget Plan and provided energy savings tips VIDEO: Ways to Save

“I was blown away at the response from customers!” said Randi Richards, one of our severe weather team members. “People were setting up payment arrangements, and they were telling me what was going on in their lives, how hard this winter has been, and what worked for their budget. They shared how touched they were that we were reaching out to them.”

  •  The majority of meters are being read. VIDEO: Meter Reading
    –  However, the extreme weather has created challenges in physically reaching every one of our 1.8 million natural gas meters
    —  We have increased the number of meter readers we have on the job. They are working extended hours, including weekends

 Resources for Michigan Residents

 Our Work Continues

  • We are preparing for next winter. We will replenish our Michigan underground natural gas storage system, the nation’s fourth-largest
  • Warm weather brings outdoor work – tree trimming and strengthening our gas and electric systems. We’ll be spending $60 million this year, for example, just to upgrade underground gas mains

Working to deliver the energy you need, whenever you need it. That’s our Promise to Michigan.

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Consumers Energy Provides $3 Million to Nonprofits to Help Michigan Residents Stay Warm

Posted on March 3, 2014. Filed under: Community, Corporate Giving, Payment Assistance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

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.

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.”

Nonprofit partners

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.

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Home Heating Credit Provides Help for Qualifying Michigan Residents

Posted on February 25, 2014. Filed under: Natural Gas, Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , |

HHC2013GuidelinesWhile 366,700 Michigan residents claimed a Home Heating Credit averaging $137 last year, a significant share of home heating credits go unclaimed by income-eligible households.

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.

Also, there’s still time for income-qualified residents to sign up for the CARE program and get bill relief. For details, visit www.ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance or view CARE Service Territory Map

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Beat the Freeze with Tools to Manage Your Consumers Energy Bill

Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Business, Community, Natural Gas, Payment Assistance, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

GarrickVideo

Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy vice president, shares tips to Beat the Freeze.
For help paying your bill, call (800) 477-5050 or visit http://www.ConsumersEnergy.com/energyanswers.

Between snow days and snow plows, polar winds and polar temperatures, this season is really packing a punch.

This is one of the coldest winters in a generation and has led our residential customers to use 26 percent more natural gas this winter (November through January) compared to last year.

Even though our natural gas price is the lowest in a decade, the lower temps are making furnaces work harder and leading to higher energy bills. VIDEO: Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy vice president, shares tips, tools to Beat the Freeze.

We’re here to help with people and programs:

  • If you think you’re going to have trouble paying your energy bill, call us right away at (800) 477-5050
  • On Monday, we activated our Severe Weather Assistance Team to connect customers with assistance plans and payment options
  • Get more than 100 ways to save on your energy bill
  • Moving our feet to give others heat in Walks for Warmth across the state
  • Extended a special discount on bills for Michigan’s homeless shelters for an additional month, through March

5 Tips to Manage Your Energy Use

  1. Turn down the dial – Every degree you dial down could save 1 to 3 percent on heating costs
  2. Keep drapes closed to retain heat at night – Open during the day to let in the warm sunlight
  3. Let the air flow – Keep furniture, curtains and other items from blocking heat registers
  4. Clean/replace furnace filters – Your furnace is the hardest working appliance in your home. A clean filter lets your furnace breathe easy and run more efficiently
  5. Weather stripping doors and windows – An 1/8” crack around the perimeter of a door is equivalent to a softball-sized hole in the middle of the door

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter for more #CEenergytips

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Walking for Warmth to Heat Homes in Michigan

Posted on February 13, 2014. Filed under: Community, Corporate Giving, Events, Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

WalkforwarmthEmployees

Join us for a 2014 Walk for Warmth ConsumersEnergy.com/walkforwarmth

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.

Coordinated by local Michigan Community Action Agencies, 34 walks will be held from Feb. 1 through the first week in March. Walk schedule

DETROIT NEWS:  Oakland County Walk for Warmth helps families in need through cold winter

  • 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.

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7 Tips to Save Energy for 6 More Weeks of Winter

Posted on February 3, 2014. Filed under: Business, Community, Energy Efficiency, Natural Gas, Payment Assistance, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

ProgrammableTstat

Every degree you dial down could save 1 percent to 3 percent on your heating costs.

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

  1. Turn down the dial – Every degree you dial down could save 1 to 3 percent on your heating costs.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat – It can save as much as 20 percent on your heating costs and we offer a $10 rebate
  3. 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
  4. Reduce water temperature – Lower your water heating temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees
  5. Let the air flow – Keep furniture, carpeting and curtains from blocking heat registers
  6. Join the Budget Plan and keep your energy costs steady year-round
  7. 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
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New Consumers Energy Program Helps Income Qualified Customers Manage Monthly Costs

Posted on December 17, 2013. Filed under: Community, Economy, Energy Efficiency, Events, Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

CAREGraphicDec2013Thanks to a new program from Consumers Energy, qualifying Michigan residents can start getting help to manage their monthly energy costs before they fall behind in payments.

Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy (CARE) is currently enrolling income-qualified Michigan residents.  CARE provides a variety of assistance through paying past due balances and offering monthly bill credits, basic tips for energy savings, and opportunities for energy-efficiency upgrades.

The statewide initiative is available to all Michigan residents who Consumers Energy serves based on income, from $17,235 for an individual up to $59,445 for a household of eight. Larger households also qualify based on income.

CARE will enroll income-qualified customers through the end of January, and space is available for up to 12,500.

For more information or to enroll, contact one of three partner agencies in your area: The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) at (877) 646-2818, The Salvation Army at http:sawmni.org/cecare or TrueNorth Community Services at (800) 379-0221.

Consumers Energy also offers assistance programs and payment plans for veterans, seniors and others at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance.

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