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LIHEAP Clearinghouse News Bulletin - September 2014

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Michigan State Agencies Award Nearly $90 Million in Energy Assistance Grants

In late August, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) granted $89.5 million to 13 entities as part of the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP). For the fiscal year beginning October 1, the funds will support programs that provide energy assistance and services for low-income households. According to MEAP's authorizing statue, a majority of the funds must be expended by the grantees during the annual "crisis season" of November 1 through May 31.

Both private and public entities can apply for MEAP funds. MEAP grantees must offer programs that help low-income households deal with crisis situations; help them pay their energy bills; and move them toward self-sufficiency when it comes to their energy needs. The self-sufficiency efforts can include a range of activities from case management to participation in energy efficiency programs. MEAP defines low-income as households with incomes up to 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines (FPG).

MEAP's goal is for eligible low-income households to work with one MEAP provider throughout the crisis season. However, households can receive assistance from more than one MEAP provider if they use multiple types of energy, for example, households using both propane and electricity. Receiving MEAP assistance does not preclude a household from receiving help from the State Emergency Relief program.

MEAP's funding comes from two sources—the Low Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF) and Michigan LIHEAP. Roughly $50 million is generated by a LIEAF surcharge that is collected by participating utilities. Public Act 95 of 2013 directed the MPSC to create the surcharge for electric customers, but it allowed utilities to opt out of collecting it. The Act capped the amount of money that could be raised at $50 million.

In late July 2014, the MPSC set the surcharge at $0.97 per month for the 22 participating utilities to get close to, but not exceed, the $50 million cap. The vast majority of the surcharge funding will come from two large utilities, Detroit Edison Company and Consumers Energy. They forecasted raising over $46 million through the surcharge themselves. In addition to the utility funds, Michigan LIHEAP contributed between $30 million and $40 million to MEAP.

The MPSC and DHS released a request for proposals in early July with a deadline of July 29. When the grantees were announced, the two largest recipients were Detroit Edison Energy ($17 million) and Consumers Energy ($13.18 million). Others included statewide and local fuel funds, a state agency, the Michigan Community Action Association, and others. The grantees and the amount of funding they received can be viewed here.

MEAP finally provides a permanent replacement for the Low-Income Energy Efficiency Fund, which ran from 2002 until the Michigan Court of Appeals struck it down in 2011. Between the court ruling and passage of Public Act 95 in 2013, the Michigan Legislature appropriated public funds for low-income energy assistance on a year-by-year basis. For more information on MEAP and its predecessors, please see this Clearinghouse article.

Utility Increases Low-Income Benefits; Other Programs Continue Helping Low-Income Coloradans

Black Hills Energy is making changes to its Colorado low-income energy assistance program by increasing the amount of its monthly benefit and serving more customers. The utility will raise its monthly maximum benefit from $50 to $75, in addition to raising income eligibility from 125 percent of FPG to 150 percent.

The Black Hills Energy Assistance Program (BHEAP) is a two-year-old program created by the utility to follow rules enacted by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in 2011. The rules required utilities to offer energy assistance programs. Raising income eligibility to 150 percent of FPG will allow more Black Hills customers to qualify for assistance. However, that figure undercuts the CPUC's rules, which said that, in the third year of assistance programs, eligibility was to be set at 185 percent of FPG.

Black Hills petitioned the CPUC in late May 2014 to allow the company to use the 150 percent of FPG for the 2014-2015 program year. Black Hills requested the action in order to align BHEAP eligibility with that of Colorado LIHEAP, which uses 150 percent. The utility said it relied on Colorado LIHEAP to verify its customers' income eligibility. It also stated it did not have the personnel or systems to collect the additional information to determine eligibility up to 185 percent of FPG. Using outside resources, Black Hills said, would be "a significant expense to the program." In mid-June, the CPUC accepted the utility's proposal to set eligibility at 150 percent for the 2014-2015 program year.

Since the CPUC adopted its rules requiring utilities to implement rate assistance programs in 2011, the five largest utilities in the state have complied and reported on their progress. They also followed the CPUC's recommendation to implement both bill assistance and arrearage forgiveness programs. The following table shows the number of households served by these utility programs, in addition to the utilities' expenditures, for the 2013-2014 program year.

Utility

Households Served

Arrearage Forgiveness

Bill Assistance

Atmos Energy

762

$46,645

$9,686

Black Hills Energy

1,035

$41,062

$427,102

CO Natural Gas

61 

$6,708 

$18,589 

Xcel Energy

14,477

Included in bill assistance

$7.15 million

Source Gas

1,462

$21,901

$303,838

Source: Filings with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission


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LOW INCOME ENERGY PUBLICATIONS

Changes to the Heat and Eat Provision in the 2014 Farm Bill and How LIHEAP Participants May Be Affected, National Consumer Law Center, June 2014. The issue brief examines the changes required of LIHEAP to conform to the 2014 Farm Bill's requirement that energy assistance payments be more than $20 in "Heat and Eat" programs.

Weatherization Assistance Program Funding Survey: PY 2013, National Association for State Community Services Programs. The report provides a comprehensive look at funding for weatherization around the country. It lists every state and American territory and breaks down funding into various components, including the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, LIHEAP, and other sources. One table details whether the "other" funds are from utilities or state/public funds. The tables allow comparison between annual levels of funding since 2003.

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The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, organizations or program activities imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or compliance with HHS regulations.
National Center for Appropriate Technology

News Bulletin, Number 24

September 2014


In This Issue

Michigan State Agencies Award Nearly $90 Million in Energy Assistance

Utility Increases Low-Income Benefits; Other Programs Continue Helping Low-Income Coloradans


What's New on Our Website

Reports

Online Application for LIHEAP

LIHEAP Program Integrity: States Make Progress on Documentation and Verification of Client Information

Issue Briefs

A New Framework for Heat and Eat: LIHEAP and SNAP After the 2014 Farm Bill

LIHEAP Administrative Cost Savings


Low-Income Energy Events


February 23-27, 2015

NASCSP Mid-Winter Training Conference, Arlington, VA. See the NASCSP website for more details.


June 22-24, 2015

Save the Date! National Energy and Utility Affordability Conference, Baltimore, MD. See the NEUAC website for more information.


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