Low-income households receive energy assistance

HERE+TO+HELP%E2%80%94The+Superior+Watershed+Partnership%E2%80%99s+location+at+2+Peter+White+Drive+on+Presque+Isle+is+home+to+the+initiative+which+aids+impoverished+families+in+the+U.P.+with+financial+assistance+to+help+cover+the+energy+costs+of+heating+their+homes+during+the+brutal+northern+winters.

HERE TO HELP—The Superior Watershed Partnership’s location at 2 Peter White Drive on Presque Isle is home to the initiative which aids impoverished families in the U.P. with financial assistance to help cover the energy costs of heating their homes during the brutal northern winters.

Jackie Jahfetson

With cooler temperatures already settling in the U.P., low-income households will be eligble to apply for financial energy assistance to help heat their homes this winter.

The Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) received a total of $2.46 million on Oct. 1 to help low-income households with their energy assistance program services throughout the 15 counties in the U.P. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), approved Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) grants totaling $54.5 million. The SWP was one of nine recipients to receive state and federal funding for the fiscal year. 

“It’s a good feeling,” SWP Program Manager Tonya Swenor said. “We’ve been able to help a lot of families. We’ve been able to help up to 2,800 families a year with their energy bills, energy education and also home-energy assessments.”

This is the seventh year the SWP has been a Navigation and Referral Partner for the MEAP, and the organization hopes to continue this program, Swenor noted. Energy conservation is a core principle the SWP tries to uphold, and by assisting people with heat and electric bills, the SWP can ensure that people will be more informed on their energy consumption, she said.

“It’s important for us because we’re here to help people in the U.P. and we’re able to make a more rounded approach to help [people] with energy assistance as well as educational opportunities,” Swenor said.

Households who have an energy crisis can apply for the State Emergency Relief (SER) program, either at their MDHHS office or online at MI Bridges through michigan.gov. Or people can visit the SWP to receive guidance at its office located at 401 E. Fair Ave. in the Lakeview Arena. MDHHS will then determine eligibility for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program assistance. For those who quality for SER energy services, they will be eligible for SWP MEAP direct payment assistance, such as the Affordable Payment Plan (APP), Swenor said. 

This funding allows for the SWP to help a family by giving them up to $2,000 of energy assistance per year, and the APP allows for households to be put on a plan for 24 months without stressing over expensive bills, Swenor said. 

“It’s really good for the clients to be able to budget better for their other needs because we have some of the highest rates in the United States for electric, so a lot of families struggle here,” Swenor said. “Sometimes they just need help with their bills once or twice and that’s all they need to stay on track.” 

Without this energy funding, some households may not otherwise be able to stay in the U.P. due to the high costs of energy, Swenor added. 

For information on energy assistance, call the SWP at 273-2742 or visit superiorwatersheds.org/energy-conservation.