No. THAW is a statewide, independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is not part of any utility company.
Our utility partners provide administrative expenses, non-cash bill credits, and in-kind services to THAW. Representatives from utility companies are represented on THAW’s board, which promotes coordination of community services and avoids duplication or overlap of service.
THAW works with community agencies and other organizations in over 53 counties through out Michigan that provide a full range of services including THAW’s energy assistance program where families and individuals in need may apply for help. Agency staff verify income, determine need, and assist applicants in finding other resources and services.
Economic shifts have led to a diminished number of higher paid manufacturing jobs and an explosion in jobs that pay low wages. Often, two-parent households working at minimum wage jobs still fall below the federal poverty level. Many THAW applicants live at the margin of poverty. Any crisis, such as an illness or loss of a job, can cause an inability to pay for heat or electricity. Throughout the state, higher energy costs have caused more people than ever to exhaust their resources.
While seniors and some low-income citizens are protected from shut-off during the coldest months, this may only delay terminations for those unable to afford service. An inability to pay winter bills may prompt the elderly to forgo needed medication or food in order to keep up payments.
A family may cut back on nutrition to be able to meet their obligations, or they may use dangerous alternatives such as kerosene heaters or candles. Families that heat their homes with propane or oil have no protection from shut-off. When the tank is out, there’re out of luck. Through your donations, THAW is there for families in need in winter and in early spring when it is still cold in Michigan and winter protection is ended.
Utility contributions and matching funds to THAW come from shareholder (company) funds, not rate payers, and are not added to the cost of service.
The Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides funds to Michigan low income households through the Home Heating Credit, which is not an emergency program. LIHEAP also funds the State Emergency Relief Program (SER) through the Michigan Department of Human Servcies (DHS – formerly FIA). Unfortunately, LIHEAP funds are inadequate. LIHEAP benefits cover only about 15% of the average annual energy cost.
THAW is intended to supplement, not replace government assistance. All THAW recipients who are eligible for Home Heating Credit or SER must apply for these as a condition of receiving THAW assistance.
In 2012, Michigan instituted a Low Income Energy Assistance Grant (LIEAG) program managed by the Michigan Department of Human Services and distributed by Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). THAW applies for these funds when they are available and uses these funds to supplement the donations that we receive from the public.
THAW does not require that families reimburse any assistance they receive; however, applicants are required to contribute to their outstanding balance and participate in budget management programs in order to receive assistance. Often people who have been helped through a crisis become THAW contributors in the future.