March 10, 2011

Michigan Citizens, Families Urge Congress: Don't Cut Vital U.S. Heating Assistance Plan

March 10, 2011
Contact: Michelle Martinez:  313-443-1046

Michigan Citizens, Families Urge Congress:
Don't Cut Vital U.S. Heating Assistance Plan

LANSING - As utilities continue to raise energy rates, Michigan citizens and families today called on Congress to protect a federal heating relief assistance program that lawmakers are considering slashing.

The program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), assists low-income households and families in need meet their immediate home energy needs. Generally, qualifying families are those who pay the highest proportion of their household incomes on home energy bills.

"Families across Michigan are struggling in this tough economy, and cutting this essential relief program will be devastating," said Ann Grimmett of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. "Costs are going up every day, for everything from food to fuel to heating costs. While utilities raise rates, federal support for LIHEAP is more important now more than ever."

Comments from citizens at the hearing will be passed along to Congress, which is considering slashing LIHEAP funding by as much as 30 percent. The hearing was hosted by the Michigan Public Services Commission.

"The reason Michigan families are paying more and more for energy is because of our dependence on coal, which is a reminder to the Snyder Administration that it must invest in more homegrown, affordable renewable energy," said Michelle Martinez of the Sierra Club. "We need to slam the brakes on rising energy costs and energy efficiency is the cheapest form of energy available. Michigan can help our fellow citizens by creating clean energy jobs that can't be outsourced, invest in our homes, and keep Michigan families warm."

"Michigan households spent almost double on energy in 2010 than in 2000 - and we keep paying higher and higher prices when we burn coal," said Robin Douglas, a DTE energy consumer activist. "Gov. Rick Snyder has an opportunity to send a clear signal that he supports all families, by investing taxpayers' hard earned money on wind and solar energy and more energy efficiency programs. These are investments that create jobs, protect ratepayers from price spikes and help build a stronger future."

"Michigan families need LIHEAP energy assistance because our most vulnerable populations are paying for energy twice: once on their electric bill, and then again at the hospital when they get asthma from the pollution as a result of living around coal plants," said Michelle Ali Danar, an energy specialist. "These vulnerable citizens are paying unfair taxes and not seeing any of the benefits."

"As energy costs go up, Gov. Rick Snyder has a golden opportunity to break Michigan's unhealthy dependence on coal and keep our dollars here in Michigan, by investing in clean energy and energy efficiency," said Susan Harley of Clean Water Action. "Michigan has an opportunity to build a clean energy future that strengthens our economy while protecting ratepayers and our most vulnerable citizens. High energy costs that hit consumers is a warning that Michigan must grow our clean energy economy now."