Cold Temps will Bring Rising Home Heating Costs in Northern Michigan

Father Fred Winter Financial HelpThose 75 degree days are about to be a thing of the past, at least for this year. The chill in the air is nipping at our heels, and that means many of us will be turning to home heating. With that, winter heating bills will be close behind. Nmcaa Logo

“As soon as you see that forecast, everybody starts thinking about their homes, their furnaces, their heating, heating bills that are going to be coming in the coming months.” Tish Stave, the NMCAA Director of Housing and Energy Efficiency Services, says. “We are gearing up to get a lot of phone calls, we’re used to it this time of year.”

The Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency tries to help on the front end, with a Weatherization Assistance program for income-qualified households.

“Our Weatherization Assistance Program is a program where income-qualified households may apply. And if they’re approved they’ll be put on a wait-list for an energy audit,” Stave says. “They take infrared readings, they do blower-door tests to see where all the air leakage is. Any chances for improving their energy efficiency in their home.”

They’ll check furnaces, insulation, ventilation, and more. It’s open to homeowners or renters with the landlord’s permission.

Father Fred Logo“We take people year-round. We serve 11 counties with this program. Depending on the county that somebody is in there could be a wait list of a couple months, but some are up to a year just because of high demand,” Stave says. That’s one reason not to wait until there’s an issue. “Even if you’re just curious we’ll do an energy audit and see.”

Stephanie Kimball with the Father Fred Foundation says they have financial assistance available for those heating bills. “We’ve been seeing a lot more requests for heating assistance with the weather getting colder and the economy. People are having trouble making ends meet. So they’re coming in asking for assistance.”

For these programs, you should try to get help from the state first, through DHHS.

“We ask them to bring the bill and the DHS denial and we’ll see what we can do,” Kimball says.

Lt. Matthew Winters at the Salvation Army in Traverse City says they are also armed and ready.  “We’re prepared to help people as the need arises. And we’re ready for that.”Salvation Army 700x500

“We’ve see already a huge increase in need from even last year. Last year, our assistance requests are up already 100%. The food pantry up 400%. It’s one of those things we’re seeing that the economy and its state has tipped the scale for a lot of people,” Winters says.

Many of us will be turning on the heat for the first time this weekend. But social service agencies say, don’t wait until it’s too late, until you’re too far behind, to ask for help.

“We would just say if you at all think you need help, stop in to your local Salvation Army. There will be a warm smile there and ready to help you prepare for what lies ahead,” Winters says.

He adds there are lots of places willing to help. “Everyone has their own requirements so what we say is call in… get on the phone with someone and make sure you know what you need. Find a pathway forward.”

“We encourage people to come in sooner than later. We don’t want them to wait for the shutoff notice. We want them to get in and get the assistance beforehand,” she says. “It’s hard to ask for help. We try to make that easier here. But a lot of time people just get scared and don’t know where to turn,” And Kimball adds.

Father Fred Winter Help AssistanceThe Father Fred Foundation in Traverse City is open to questions by phone or available to walk-ins. Their hours are 10-2 Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday. They stay open late on Wednesday until 7pm.

NMCAA says Emergency Home Repair funds are also available for immediate needs in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Missaukee counties.

Find the Salvation Army website here.