New program will pay up to $500 in utility costs for Michigan's essential workers

Even with COVID-19's spread not ending anytime soon, resident's bills still have to be paid. 

A nonprofit is making that task a little easier on the state's first responders by launching a utility relief fund that will help with gas, water and electricity expenses.

"Our front-line workers are our lifeblood and are giving us every bit of their energy," said THAW CEO Saunteel Jenkins. "They are selflessly putting themselves in harm's way each and every day.  We want them to know that we see them.  We appreciate them. We support them. And that we are fighting for them.

THAW, or The Heat and Warm Fund, will pay up to $500 in utility assistance for any household with an income up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. Following the Department of Homeland Security's definition of an essential worker, if you're a health care nurse, hospital cleaning and maintenance worker, grocery and foodservice clerk, or bus driver, you qualify.

If you're employed in one of those sectors, the hard part of getting financial assistance is already done.

"They just have to go to get the application, they can find the application there, send it in, and if you are an essential worker making up to 250% of the federal poverty level, you qualify," Jenkins said. "We will assist with gas, electricity, water - we can assist up to $500."

The program is getting funding through a combination of mission-specific fundraising, a $40,000 matching donation from Enbridge Inc. and a portion of a $300,000 settlement with Consumers Energy by the Michigan Attorney General.

"I can think of no better way to help those on the front lines of COVID-19 than relieving some of the stress in their lives," said AG Dana Nessel.  "It is wonderful of THAW to find a way to use their energy, creativity and financial support to help those who are the saints among us."