Payment Assistance

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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Warm Hearts and Homes this Holiday with Gifts of Energy

Posted on December 10, 2013. Filed under: Business, Community, Electricity, Natural Gas, Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

GiftofEnergyColorThis 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.

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Celebrating Our Veterans and Special Military Payment Assistance

Posted on November 11, 2013. Filed under: Community, Events, Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , , |

VeteransDayConsumers Energy salutes all former and current military personnel for their service to our country.

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

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Still time to apply for Michigan Home Heating Credit

Posted on September 5, 2013. Filed under: Payment Assistance | Tags: , , , , |

HHC2012GuidelinesThere 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.

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