Help may be available for families struggling with paying heating bills

Published 9:43 am Thursday, December 3, 2015

Michigan winters can be harsh and even deadly. With winter just around the corner, I want to remind area families that help with heating bills may be available.

First, if you are unable to pay your bills, please contact the utility company ASAP and explain the situation. Being proactive could save your life by ensuring the heat stays on.

The Winter Protection Plan safeguards seniors and low-income gas and electric customers from service shutoffs and high utility bills from Nov. 1 to March 31. It allows eligible customers to avoid shutoffs while paying nothing or just a small percentage of their annual bill during the protection period. To apply, residents should contact their natural gas or utility company.

It is important to remember that this is a deferment plan, not a financial assistance program. It is meant to ease the burden of high utility bills in the winter. However, immediate help may be available if you are facing conditions of extreme hardship or emergency.

The State Emergency Relief Program offers financial assistance for low-income residents who are normally able to make ends meet but may need help due to an unexpected emergency. For more information, visit

The site includes details on the Weatherization Assistance Program and Home Heating Credit.

In addition, many charity and community organizations have programs to help ensure that Southwest Michigan residents will not have to worry about how they are going to keep their families warm this winter.

The Diocesan Heating Assistance Program will be available for aid beginning on Jan. 4. It is funded by contributions and provides heating assistance to residents in need who live within the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo region. Residents should contact their local parish to apply.

The Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency also offers emergency aid. Residents may learn more about the agency’s programs by visiting The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) is a leading provider of utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. For more information, visit

Families in need of help with home heating or other programs may always contact my office for assistance toll-free at 1-866-305-2121 or by email at


Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents Southwest Michigan.