When a court ruling put home heating assistance for low-income Michiganders at risk, AARP Michigan was among the advocacy organizations that came to the rescue.
See Also: Winter Heating Costs Report
AARP supported a bill setting up the $58 million Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund, which keeps the heat on for those who struggle to pay their utility bills through the current heating season.
The bill won passage in the House and Senate and was signed by the governor in December.
Since then, AARP Michigan has joined the Coalition to Keep Michigan Warm, a group committed to finding a long-term solution to the continuing need for heating help beyond the current season.
“We’re pleased that needy seniors and other Michigan residents will be able to get help with their heating bills this winter,” said Lisa Dedden Cooper, AARP Michigan advocacy manager.
“But this is only a temporary fix. We need a permanent solution so we don’t face this funding crisis every year.”
Those earning up to 60 percent of the state’s median income qualify for the help, but a court ruling last year said the state lacked the authority to operate the program, financed by a surcharge customers had been paying on their energy bills. That money was put into an escrow fund.
The legislation returns the $48 million in escrow to ratepayers, but taps another $48 million utility customers will be paying over the next mine months for the home heating fund, and adds $10 million from the general fund, the state’s main checking account.
AARP Michigan backed the legislation in committee and a letter from State Director Jacqueline Morrison and State President Eric Schneidewind was distributed on the Senate floor.
Passage of the bill was recognized by the national AARP as a “public benefits” victory for low-income Michiganders and AARP Michigan.