The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) has a simple mission: “stabilizing and empowering Michigan families, keeping them healthy, safe, and warm.”
And while people can attest to that mission by typically calling THAW’s 1-800 number during the cold months, there are programs and services year-round that can be utilized.
It’s no surprise that since COVID-19, families have been dealt harsh blows when it comes to making payments toward high utility bills while working remotely or having experienced recent job loss. THAW is eager to provide available funds to help vulnerable Michigan residents pay their utility bills by providing a “hand up.”
One of THAW’s biggest programs is the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP). MEAP provides direct bill payment assistance for heat and electricity for low-income Michigan residents. Families with incomes at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level on the chart below are eligible to apply.
Carolynn Rowland, chief operations officer, told The Michigan Chronicle that MEAP’s statewide program decided to support low-income residents with paying their bills during a time when this kind of assistance is needed most.
“It is available to residents throughout the state but in Detroit in particular we know that Detroit has a lot of families struggling to pay their bills and may have accumulated bills over this strange period we are in terms of COVID moratoriums; we are in shutoffs,” she said, adding that she expects a lot of people might be confused on if they have to pay or not, including accumulated bills. “They can be taken care of through the program.”
To be eligible to apply, families must have current residential service and complete a two-step process to qualify for MEAP funds.
- Complete a State Emergency Relief (SER) application through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) at newmibridges.michigan.gov or visit your local MDHHS office. Once the family or resident receives the SER decision notice, they complete step 2, the THAW application.
- Complete the THAW application at thawfund.org/programs or call THAW’s Utility Assistance Center at 800-866-8429 to have an application mailed. THAW’s Utility Assistance Center specialists are available to support the completion of THAW’s assistance application anddiscuss affordable payment plans with those who qualify. The application can also be downloaded, printed, and mailed directly to THAW’s offices.
In addition to MEAP, THAW is a partner for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program. Rental and utility assistance funds are available now. Low-income households in Wayne County who have experienced hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic can apply now. Utility assistance is also available for water, sewer, heat, and electricity.
Rowland added that their agency alone has helped 8,000-10,000 households a year throughout the state.
“Once they are approved for the state emergency relief, then when they apply to THAW and are enrolled in the MEAP program … we can take care of that back bill with MEAP or we can put families on an affordable payment plan,” Rowland said.
She added that local utility companies are partners in MEAP.
“Each company has their own version of the affordable payment plan; whoever is your utility provider you are involved in their program benefits,” Rowland said, adding that interested program participants can call 800-866-THAW.
For more information about the program, required documents for landlords and tenants, and additional eligibility details visit, https://www.waynemetro.org/cera/. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is administering this program for Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/mshda.
Utility insecurity increases the likelihood of homelessness. Resources are available for Detroit residents at risk of homelessness through the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG). To apply you must call the Coordinated Assessment Model line (CAM) at (313) 484-4449; you cannot apply for this program through THAW. Once assessed through CAM, it will be determined if applicants meet the criteria for utility relief assistance and be referred to THAW.
Whether or not you qualify for MEAP, ESG and CERA, THAW administers additional programs that can be accessed depending on your situation. Call 800-866-8429 for more information.
For more information, visit thawfund.org/programs.