FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 30, 2021
The Michigan Public Service Commission today launched a new public resource for information and data related to customer protections - an outgrowth of the Commission's efforts to strengthen customer aid and assistance programs as the COVID-19 pandemic bore down on the state.
The MPSC's new COVID-19 Utility Customer Data site features a database of regularly updated information on the number of regulated utility customers whose service has been shut off for nonpayment and customers who've had their service restored, as well as the number of customers enrolled in assistance plans and information on the number of customers who are 30, 60, 90 or more days past due on their utility bills.
MPSC Staff have created a video explaining the database, walking through how to use the portal and what data is available.
"Having this critical data available is meant to help inform decisions about policies and where to direct resources as Michigan works on recovering from a year of immense uncertainty and change," MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said. "MPSC staff have worked diligently with stakeholders to make sure we could gather accurate, updated information, and we're now making that data available in an easily searchable database."
The data is compiled monthly from the investor-owned utilities regulated by the MPSC and does not include customer data for rural electric cooperatives or municipally owned utilities. Utilities reporting customer data to the MPSC are Alpena Power, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, Michigan Gas Utilities, Northern States Power (Xcel), SEMCO Energy Gas, Upper Michigan Energy Resources, and Upper Peninsula Power.
In April 2020, amid swirling uncertainties about the nascent pandemic's economic impact on the state's economy and Michiganders' household finances, the MPSC directed Michigan energy providers to take steps to ensure that customers maintained energy service. That included efforts to voluntarily pause shutoffs, offer payment flexibility, waive late fees, restore service to households that had been shut off and to boost customer energy assistance, education, and outreach as an influx of funding arrived from the federal pandemic stimulus.
In Case No. U-20757, the Commission also directed investor-owned utilities to file a monthly report detailing data on disconnected gas or electric service to occupied residences as well as tracking customer arrearages, or back-due bills.
Until now, the data had only been publicly accessible in filings in the Commission's electronic dockets system. It is now available in a more open format: a continuously updated database. While the site is geared toward stakeholders such as social service providers, local and state government agencies, consumer advocates, utilities and others to help inform policy decisions, it is also available to any member of the public wishing to explore the data. The MPSC developed the database in collaboration with stakeholder groups and regulated utilities.
The MPSC has collected data on shutoffs for years, but with the arrival of COVID-19 upending the economy and daily life, the agency sought more detailed information than it had before, to help ensure customer safety during the pandemic and to help inform its decisions on expanding financial assistance programs meant to help households struggling to pay utility bills.
Throughout last year, the Commission enhanced its focus on providing additional energy assistance options and expanded eligibility for customers in need. The MPSC and MDHHS leveraged $18 million of the federal CARES Act funding, in coordination with several utilities, to develop a special program called LIHEAP Energy Direct that streamlined energy assistance for nearly 41,000 low-income households behind on their utility bills. The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) also awarded more than $55 million in grants that provided energy assistance payments and self-sufficiency services to more than 55,600 low-income Michigan households.
Utility customers having difficulty paying energy bills should contact their utility to ask about flexible payment options and assistance. You may also find more information about State Emergency Relief and MEAP through MI Bridges at www.michigan.gov/mibridges. If you need help applying, call 211 and ask for a MEAP grantee near you for help. You also can find a local MEAP grantee at the MPSC's MEAP information page.
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