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Monday, March 30, 2020

Michigan utilities suspend service shutoffs during coronavirus crisis

Local Government

By April Bamburg | Mar 24, 2020

Utility Lines | Shutterstock

Michigan's two largest utility companies, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, announced plans to suspend utility nonpayment service shutoffs for senior citizens and low-income eligible households for during the coronavirus outbreak.

Michigan Radio reported the utility shutoff suspension announcement on March 16.The policy will remain in place until April 5, 2020.

In response, The Empowerment Alliance is has issued the following statement in applauding the utility companies' decision:  

“As many Americans have seen their work hours reduced or have been laid off, many will be unable to pay for basic energy services,” said Ian Prior, spokesperson for The Empowerment Alliance. “Fortunately, utility companies around the country are doing the right thing and suspending customer shut offs and resuming service. It’s the kind of patriotic response this country needs, and The Empowerment Alliance applauds their efforts and encourages all others that can to follow suit.”

A low-income eligible household for both companies is a household at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Consumers Energy defines a senior citizen as an individual 65 years of age or older, while DTE sets the senior citizen age at 62 or older.

Consumers Energy makes shutoff suspension decisions on a case-by-case basis, Roger Morgenstern told Michigan Radio. Morgenstern is a public information officer with the energy company.

“We know there are some financial circumstances that are being created  by closures because of the virus, but right now, we’re limiting the suspension of shutoffs to the lower-income households and senior citizens,” Morgenstern said.

He suggests that customers call Consumers Energy directly if they are struggling, as the call centers can look at individual cases and determine if the company can help.

At DTE Energy, Freya Kennedy is the Principal Supervisor of Energy Assistance.

"If anyone is encountering difficulty paying their bills, DTE does want to know. As soon as someone feels they will be unable to pay an upcoming bill, we want them to contact us and we’ll work with them to find the best form of assistance available to them,” said Kennedy.

The current April 5 deadline may be extended if necessary.

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