Walker: Senate ensures low-income families will stay warm this winter
Friday, December 16, 2011
LANSING, Mich.—The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation ensuring low-income residents who may have faced heating utility shut-offs will be able to keep their homes and families warm this winter.
“This is an issue for which I have been advocating for months, and is very important for Northern Michigan,” said Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City. “Many low-income families would continue to receive assistance for their heating needs, and I am very pleased and relieved that we’ll have a program in place for this winter.”
A state Court of Appeals decision ruled the Michigan Public Service Commission could not operate the Low Income Energy Efficiency Funding (LIEEF) and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs. These were long-standing programs created by a surcharge on utility bills that were struck down by the courts due to language inadvertently deleted during a 2008 update of the law.
Senate Bill 864, sponsored by Walker, and Senate Bill 364 and House Bill 5190 together continue an existing charge to customers on their electric and natural gas bills to help the estimated 130,000 Michiganders who qualify for assistance on their home heating costs. The charge is approximately a 50 percent reduction in the cost currently born by rate payers. This is expected to raise $48 million to be deposited in a new Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund created by the legislation.
Walker said the plan helps Michigan deal with the immediate problem of low-income heating during the winter while giving the Legislature ample time to create a comprehensive, fair and long-term replacement.
“I want to extend my thanks to the utility companies and all of my colleagues for their help with this important issue,” Walker said. “I look forward to Governor Snyder’s approval of these bills in the near future.”
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