State programs could help those struggling with their heating bills

Those looking for extra heating assistance this winter may be able to turn to state programs.

In one recent article, we detailed how the kindness of New York Times readers helped a struggling Maine family meet their winter home heating obligations. But, while this type of assistance came from private donations, some states are taking steps to help residents who may need more than just a new manual thermostat or electric heater to keep their home warm.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan declared February "Keep Michigan Warm Month" last year, and the accompanying Home Heating Credit program is helping state residents once again in 2012. According to reports, more than 480,000 eligible Michigan residents were able to secure roughly $67 million in aid through this initiative, with each recipient receiving an average of $138.

Those who qualify for the benefits can go to their local public library, Department of Human Services branch office or Secretary of State branch office to secure the necessary paperwork for this benefit. The assistance will then be redeemable when the individual files their federal taxes the following year. (The deadline for filing for assistance is September 30 for 2012.

And while $130 may not seem like a substantial sum, amounting to about a month's heating bill for some residents, this money could go a long way for homeowners who take other steps to further reduce their heating bills.

For example, for around $100 dollars – less than the average residents Micigan residents who took advantage of the Home Heating Credit received last year – Michiganders can secure electric heaters that can help them further reduce the money they spend on oil and natural gas. Electric heaters can reduce costs by helping homeowners better spread out the heat in their homes, which in turn can ease their reliance on more expensive alternatives.

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  1. Giving the gift of lower heating bills this holiday season

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