Help is Available for Detroiters Struggling with Energy Bills

By Tarence Wheeler

Detroit is a city known for its hustle, its ambition and tenacity. Its ability to “figure it out.” That’s what we do – we figure it out and make things happen. That’s what DTE Energy and other partners did for our community this winter when we connected low-income customers who were struggling to pay their heating bills with more than $160 million in assistance. We saw the challenge, and together we made it happen.

Together, a coalition of corporate, government and nonprofit partners is working to ensure that Michigan residents keep their lights and heat on during the cold months, even when they’re unable to pay their utility bills. The dedication of these partners to getting the word out meant thousands of our neighbors stayed warm this winter.

And just because the weather is starting to turn a corner doesn’t mean folks might not still be struggling to pay their bills from the winter or from recent weeks of freezing weather. I know for my neighbors and me, this long, cold winter left us with energy bills much higher than normal – if there’s such a thing as normal when it comes to Michigan weather. The numbers don’t lie: in 2021, DTE customers received $119 million through energy assistance programs and nonprofit partners, while this year DTE expects that amount to increase to $163 million.

Even with the spring weather, many folks might still be struggling to pay those bills, or still waiting for the last winter heating bill to show up in the mail.

Unfortunately, some of our neighbors facing high bills don’t know about the millions of dollars available to low-income Michigan residents who are struggling to pay their utility bills.

That’s why I’m writing today: to let you know that help continues to be available to those who qualify for assistance. DTE and our coalition partners are getting the word out, so people who still need help know they can ask for it. Anybody who needs help should call DTE at 800-477-4747, or go to and ask about assistance programs. Help – and grace – are available. DTE’s customer service team will work to design a personalized solution for their customers who need help, based on their specific circumstances. During a time of uncertainty, a little grace can go a long way.

Their work speaks for itself. In the last five years, DTE donated more than $50 million to agencies that directly aid people most in need. They worked with the state to forgive nearly $4 million in debt for more than 23,000 customers during the peak of the pandemic. They also assisted 7,500 customers in applying for state and federal aid, and offered convenient payment plans for 66,000 customers.

This commitment says, “our city can’t and won’t go without this winter.” It’s powerful. It’s promising. It’s what everyone needed.

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