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Friday, December 16, 2011

State lawmakers enact a temporary heating assistance solution, for poor families

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Michigan lawmakers approved a plan to help protect low-income residents from utility shut-offs this winter, a little late since the winter season started three weeks ago. 

This move, that was put off until the last day of legislative action, before law makers take their nearly three week tax payer sponsored recess.

The measure passed in the legislative overwhelming bipartisan support in the Republican-led Legislature. Some Democrats disagreed with cuts in the measure, to some energry efficiency programs. 

The legislation now headed to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature, focuses on raising $58 million to help keep utilities on for low-income residents facing service disruptions.

Action was necessary as a earlier this year, Michigan Appeals Court ruled the financing system used by Michigan’s Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund -known as the THAW fund- was no longer authorized. The fund was financed through a charge on customers of large utilities, including Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy.

The replacement plan calls for refunding or rebating to customers about $48 million that has been collected in escrow since the ruling. The charge on utility bills would then resume until it raised another $48 million for a new, renamed fund.

State of Michigan will add up to $10 million would come from the general fund.

Representative Kenneth Horn (R-Frankenmuth) introduced the rebate bill.
“We’re focused very sharply on helping vulnerable families get heat turned back on and to protect them from shut off when we can,” he said to the Associated Press.
Thursday’s fix, was a temporary solution to the issue, with legislators stretching a total long-term solution repair to the THAW program, into January or beyond. 

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